Let the battle … of words begin

2010-07-07 00:00

AUCKLAND — Springbok coach Peter de Villiers says he and his All Blacks opposite Graham Henry have one thing in common — they both have big mouths.

True to form, De Villiers kicked off the bizarre verbal jousting just before his side flew out for Auckland where they face the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations opener on Saturday.

He appeared irked by comments made by Henry and captain Richie McCaw that South Africa “played less rugby” than New Zealand and Australia and would have to be “forced out of their comfort zone”.

“Graham Henry is a good coach, but he’s like me, he has a big mouth,” De Villiers said.

“I don’t understand what they mean by playing less rugby. We all play for 80 minutes. And we are never in a comfort zone. We try to improve week by week, even if it’s just by half a percent.”

South Africa are no longer in awe of the All Blacks, De Villiers said.

The Springboks have recorded back-to-back wins in New Zealand, beating the All Blacks 32-29 in Hamilton last year and 30-28 in Dunedin in 2008.

“One of the important psychological aspects of the game is that if you are in awe of a team, then you can forget to live your own life,” he said.

“We are no longer in awe of the All Blacks. We respect them still, we will still lose some games to them, but they will lose against us as well. We fear no one, but we respect everybody.

“We have found the strong characters in our squad and we have set high goals. In fact I’m quite afraid of the goals we have set.”

With World Cup football fever gripping South Africa, the Springboks have been forced out of the limelight, but their arrival in New Zealand has been anticipated.

De Villiers was asked if he thinks the All Blacks will be seeking Tri-Nations revenge.

“What is revenge?” De Villers asked. “Is it about the game or is it about ego?”

De Villiers said being the defending champions does not create any extra pressure.

“The fans’ expectation makes us take our game to the next level,” he said. “That expectation is very important in terms of our preparation, so the fans will never understand how much they mean to us.”

The Springboks prepared for the Tri-Nations by beating Wales, France and Italy twice in their June internationals, which De Villiers said have provided him with more playing depth to choose from.

“Having a big squad is starting to pay off and we now know who to eliminate from it,” he said. “We’re working on the little things and hoping they become big things for us. We’re creating a winning culture.”

After Saturday’s Test in Auckland, South Africa play New Zealand in Wellington on July 17 and the Wallabies in Brisbane on July 24.

The Springboks have not won in Auckland since their 17-6 triumph in 1937.

De Villers said: “Every Test is important, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.

“We’re focusing on this Test and history is against us. There are no champions yet this year. We all start on zero.”


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