Down, but far from out

2013-10-07 00:00

COACH Heyneke Meyer says the current Springbok team, beaten 38-27 by the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday evening, will develop into “something special” in the years ahead.

Meyer, reflecting on the weekend loss, said the team had improved dramatically since last year.

“If we can improve year on year like this, then I’m scared to think about where this team can go,” he said. “I truly believe that with this team we can become something really special.”

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, a veteran of 120 Tests, was also impressed with the Springboks and said the victory was among the best of his career.

“That’s a heck of a match to win. I haven’t seen the Springboks play a match like that for a long time. I don’t know how much running there was, but there was a hell of a lot,” he said.

It was the first time since 2010 that the All Blacks had conceded four tries in a Test.

“There is very little between these teams and they put us under a hell of a lot of pressure,” said McCaw. “It’s the same every game I have played against the Boks. If you don’t get it 100% right you are in trouble.

“The guys hung in there right until the end and they got the reward. Both teams came here willing to play,” McCaw said. “We had 20 minutes with 14 men, added to the bit of travel. It was a very satisfying win.”

McCaw said that the All Blacks could have become flustered when they went behind going into the final quarter.

“But the guys hung in there. We took our chances really well and there were times when we were under a lot of pressure and then got a critical turnover.”

Both McCaw and Meyer agreed that the turning point was the try scored by flank Liam Messam after the hooter in the first half, which took the All Blacks ahead (21-15).

“The try on half-time was critical. I’m sure it changed their half-time talk,” McCaw said.

Meyer said the try, after a missed tackle, had resulted in a change of mindset.

“Suddenly you go into half-time in a different frame of mind.”

Meyer and his captain Jean de Villiers were critical of the Springboks’ defence.

“I really thought this was one of our best attacking games. We really gave every­thing on attack and did well. But we are very disappointed at our defence,” Meyer said.

“When you play the best team in the world you need to keep your defensive lines, and we didn’t.”

De Villiers agreed.

“Rugby is about attack and defence. The belief was always there, but as players we let the coach down with our defensive effort. We have to learn from that.”

All Black coach Steve Hansen said the victory was the best since he had taken over following the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

“We have had some pretty good performances over the last few years, but this is right there at the top,” he said.

Meyer said the Springboks were on an upward curve although “the players are shattered after the loss”.

“We had a record win over Argentina and then beat them for the first time in Mendoza. We had an epic game against Australia in Brisbane, also a record win in that country, and then beat the Wallabies by a record margin in Cape Town last week.”

The All Blacks did make mistakes. Manager Darren Shand wrongly wrote Keven Mealamu’s name on the official team sheet instead of Dane Coles who took the field as a replacement for hooker Andrew Hore.

Referee Nigel Owens, who had an excellent evening, stopped play and was told by an apologetic Shand that the error was “typographical”.

Owens appeared uncertain what to do but, in the heart of battle, Bok captain De Villiers said that Coles should be allowed to continue.

“We’ll just take the [log] points,” he added with a smile.

Hansen later paid tribute to De Villiers’s sportsmanship. “That’s why we admire him so much in New Zealand,” he said.

It was a brief moral victory for the Springboks on a generally disappointing night.

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