De Villiers says Boks a better team after five-match tour of British Isles

2010-12-07 00:00

THE Springboks returned from their five-match tour of Britain and Ireland yesterday with coach Peter de Villiers convinced that South African rugby is in rude health ahead of the World Cup.

The Springboks were a distant third in the Tri-Nations and lost two of their five tour games — against Scotland and the Barbarians — but De Villiers described the year “as very good, one of the best of my life”.

“The scoreboard did not look good, but it was a good year because we pulled together through adversity. I now understand each individual better,” said De Villiers as he reflected on the tour.

The Boks have won only nine of their last 17 Tests — just over a 50% success rate — and De Villiers told News24 that he understands the public criticism.

He said there are other positives to be taken from the past year. The outing against the Barbarians, lost at Twickenham on Saturday, had not been a Test match but rather a test for the youngsters on tour.

“We won that test but lost the game.”

De Villiers toured without at least 10 injured players, among them Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Schalk Burger, John Smit and Gurthrö Steenkamp, but said that Springbok rugby would ultimately benefit from their absence.

“I actually think the injuries were a blessing, because I may have been tempted to overplay some guys.

“You cannot use them when they are injured. And now there are other players who have stepped up.

“There are 49 players from which we can pick the squad for next year’s World Cup,” said De Villiers, “and that is a healthy position to be in.”

While the Bok coach welcomed the emergence of fresh talent, it was the contribution made by the senior players which satisfied him most.

“The older guys really impressed me. They pulled us through,” he said of players like Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Juan Smit, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and Jean de Villiers.

“The young guys brought a lot of energy to our training sessions.

“Elton Jantjies was not bad, Patrick Lambie showed his talent, Lwazi Mvovo proved that he can make it at a high level and Willem Alberts made a big name for himself.

“I’m very happy.”

But De Villiers said he is concerned that the lengthy Super 15 competition next year will hinder the Boks’ World Cup preparations. There has to be careful management, he added, if the Springboks are to be fresher and start Test matches better.

“The players now need a good break so that they come back hungry,” he said.

Nick Mallett, the former Springbok coach who was in charge of the Barbarians at the weekend, said the South Africans will be a major threat at the World Cup.

The Boks, he said, would take the England win rather than the 26-20 Barbarian loss to New Zealand next September.

“I think the way South Africa played against England is what we can expect from the Boks at the World Cup.

“They will pick big and athletic forwards. South Africa are very good at set-piece and will drive the ball up until they get momentum and then give the ball to the backs when there are no defenders left.”

Mallett said that the Boks will have a different team, both in mood and personnel, at the World Cup.

“Look who was not on tour. Fourie du Preez is one of the best scrumhalves in the world, Morné Steyn is a match-winner, there are two huge centres in Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, as well as Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn. South Africa have hundreds of good players.”

He singled out the two Sharks, Patrick Lambie and Lwazi Mvovo, as players for the future.

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