Muir confident his few ‘underdone’ Boks will overcome the formidable Lions

2009-06-18 00:00

SPRINGBOK backline coach Dick Muir admits that one or two of his players will be “underdone” for Saturday’s first Test against the British Lions, but he is confident they will overcome any problems.

Fullback Frans Steyn and inside centre Jean de Villiers have been sidelined for two months and flyhalf Ruan Pienaar played only a bit part in a Super 14 season disrupted by injury.

But Muir told The Witness he is satisfied his backs will be ready on Saturday.

“Frans [Steyn] looks confident and relaxed and I think it will show in this series and both De Villiers and Pienaar are natural ball players who will settle quickly.”

Muir said that these players are also surrounded by experienced, talented team-mates who will help them.

“Frans is a player that can carry the ball up well, he can take the high ball and he has a good kicking game,” Muir said.

“His selection was a horses for courses decision. The way that we have seen the Lions play, we felt that Frans was the best candidate for fullback.”

Muir said that Stefan Terblanche, the form fullback in the Super 14, has reason to be disappointed with his omission.

“He had a really good Super 14 campaign,”said Muir, “but he played a very defensive role for the Sharks,” adding that the Boks were looking for a more attacking fullback.

Muir said Pienaar is in positive mood about his game.

“He is one of those players that, when he is confident, can really step it up. We, in turn, are confident about Ruan’s abilities,” he said.

Muir said that although no final decision has been made on who will take the kicks for the Boks, he is sure Pie­naar will take the responsibility.

Pienaar told reporters that the goalkicking problems that cost the 1997 Springboks the series against the Lions will not return to haunt him.

The Boks outscored the Lions by three tries to nil in Durban in 1997, but missed six kicks at goal to lose the Test (18-15) and the series.

The former scrumhalf, still finding his feet at fullback, will take care of the kicking duties on Saturday and said that what happened in 1997 is in the past.

“That’s something that happened in the past and this is a new series, a new challenge.”

Percy Montgomery, his former Bok team-mate, is now the Bok kicking coach and Pienaar said he has helped “make small changes”, which have been of enormous benefit.

Bok captain John Smit told reporters that the Durban Test will set the tone for the rest of the series.

“There is no point thinking about the three Tests in advance. But as cliched as it sounds, the first Test will decide what direction the series takes,” he said.

In Cape Town, former Springbok assistant coach Allister Coetzee dimissed talk that the Boks would win the Tests 3-0 and predicted “one hell of a series”.

Coetzee said that the Lions’ composure under pressure, their excellent goalkicking, the centre pairing of Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll, the strong leadership and excellent work in the set pieces would make the tourists — who are unbeaten in SA so far — a formidable team.

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