Boks told not to be complacent

2010-11-20 00:00

CAPTAIN Victor Matfield believes that the Springboks’ attitude is key to victory in this evening’s international against Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.

Matfield and coach Peter de Villiers have spent the week highlighting the dangers of Bok complacency following the All Blacks’ crushing 49-3 win over Scotland a week ago.

The Boks’ mental approach, said Matfield, would be critical against the fired-up Scots, who have gone public in promising the nation a dramatically improved showing.

The Bok captain is aware that rugby, even at the highest level, remains a game played in the couple of inches between the ears and that the most talented of teams can be ruthlessly exposed by a side hell-bent on creating mayhem.

And just talking about it is often not enough. Players refuse to learn. Warned by anxious coaches and captains of the dangers of taking their opponents too lightly, they will nod solemnly, but then still promptly take to the field with their heads in the clouds.

We have seen it happen on our doorstep this year. The Stormers and Western Province (twice), buoyed by the Cape Town press, arrived at King’s Park expecting to dump the Sharks, but were bullied and beaten by more committed opponents.

Scotland coach Andy Robinson has tried to inflate Bok ego by talking up their players while motivating his own team.

“Francois Hougaard has pace and will ask questions of us; Frans Steyn can be world class and Jean de Villiers does what he does very well. Morné Steyn is the world’s best goalkicker, so our discipline will have to be very good,” Robinson rambled.

“I rate Ryan Kankowski highly. He’s an excellent ball-carrier. Juan Smith must be one of the best loose forwards in the world and Bakkies Botha and Matfield are world class at lock.”

But Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis said they were buying none of the talk.

“We are preparing for a match against our best opponents this year,” Du Plessis said.

There would be a mighty challenge in the scrum, he added, where he, his brother Bismarck and Beast Mtawarira pack down against a powerful Scottish front-row which includes two British Lions in hooker Ross Ford and tighthead prop Euan Murray.

He agrees with Scotland coach Robinson that the inclusion of the experienced Nathan Hines, a retreaded lock on the flank, will add a hard edge to their forward play and another lineout option.

While the Scots will want to match the Boks physically, the flow of the game will be dictated largely by the weather. The Boks, in selecting Francois Hougaard ahead of Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf and including Ryan Kankowski at number eight, suggest they want to keep the ball in hand as they did impressively in the first half against Ireland and the third quarter against Wales.

But they will play into Scotland’s hands — behind the advantage line — if they play the ball too wide too early with a flyhalf (Morné Steyn) who plays from deep.

Instead they are likely to look to their big ball-carrying forwards to breach the defences before bringing their backs into play.

A number of individual Springboks are under the spotlight. Flank Deon Stegmann, a late addition to the tour squad and now starting ahead of Keegan Daniel and Willem Alberts, needs a strong showing after two quiet Tests while Kankowski has the chance to answer critics who believe he is a show pony who struggles in heavy going.

There was a late change to Scotland with injured centre Max Evans withdrawing to be replaced by the uncappedJoe Ansbro.

If their minds are on the job, the tight five, and Matfield’s excellent lineout, should ensure that the Springboks hold the edge in the set pieces and allow their loose forwards and inside backs to play off the front foot. But it is time that the Springbok backs, who made a hash of a number of try-scoring chances against the Welsh, started playing with some style and dash.

As Bok assistant coach Dick Muir might have already told you, he wrote himself into the St Andrews record books with the perfect fluke and a hole-in-one at the par three 11th at the Old Course this week.

In the land of Macbeth, witchcraft and prophecies, omens do not come much better than that.

TEAMS

Scotland: 15. Hugo Southwell, 14. Nikki Walker, 13. Joe Ansbro, 12. Graeme Morrison, 11. Sean Lamont, 10. Dan Parks, 9. Rory Lawson (capt), 8. Kelly Brown, 7. John Barclay, 6. Nathan Hines, 5. Richie Gray, 4. Scott MacLeod, 3. Euan Murray, 2. Ross Ford, 1. Allan Jacobsen

Replacements: 16. Dougie Hall, 17. Moray Low, 18. Richie Vernon, 19. Ross Rennie, 20. Greig Laidlaw, 21. Ruaridh Jackson, 22. Chris Paterson

South Africa: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Francois Steyn, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Morne Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Juan Smith, 6. Deon Stegmann, 5. Victor Matfield, 4. Bakkies Botha, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Beast Mtawarira

Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. CJ van der Linde, 18. Flip van der Merwe, 19. Willem Alberts, 20. Ruan Pienaar, 21. Patrick Lambie, 22. Adrian Jacobs.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia). Kick-off: 16:30 (SS1).

ON TV TODAY

Italy v Australia, Firenze, 4 pm – SSpt 6

Scotland v South Africa, Murrayfield, 4.30 pm – M-Net, SSpt 1

England v Samoa, Twickenham, 4.30 pm – CSN, SSpt HD, SSpt 2

Ireland v New Zealand, Dublin, 7.30 pm – CSN, SSpt 1

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