Winning Boks still well short of their best

2010-08-30 00:00

WHILE the South African rugby public may have been in a state of high agitation, Springbok captain John Smit said his players had not panicked when they trailed 21-7 to the Wallabies after just 10 minutes in the Tri-Nations Test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.

The Boks, down 28-24 at the break, fought back strongly to outscore the Australians 20-3 in the second half for a 44-31 win.

There certainly was every reason for the sloppy Boks to panic. Conceding three tries in the opening minutes of a Test, facing their fifth successive Tri-Nations defeat and with their captain, coach and senior players under intense scrutiny from a critical public, there must have been deep concern and self-doubt amongst the players.

But Smit said the players had remained confident they could repair the damage.

“We were lucky that we played so badly at the start of the Test and not at the end. There was still time, 60 or 70 minutes to put things right. We had the experience and thankfully a few guys have seen this before and come back from it. An inexperienced team would have panicked.”

Smit was determined to keep the players’ feet on the ground.

“That was not a good performance and certainly not the rugby that would win us the World Cup.”

He said that defensive improvements would have to be made before the Boks meet the Wallabies in Bloemfontein on Saturday “when we cannot allow the game to be as loose as it was in this Test.”

Test centurion Victor Matfield said that the players believed in themselves in spite of the horror start.

“You have to stick to the things you know and you don’t go out of your game plan. We did that and things started to happen for us.”

The lock said that the ambitious approach of the Wallabies had helped the Boks “because it gave us freedom to play and get back into the game.”

Springbok centre Jean de Villiers, who was one of the most influential players on the field, said the experience in the Bok team and the character of the players had been pivotal to the win.

“We’ve been through a lot this season and to come through that showed a lot of character.

“The leadership [of Smit and Matfield] was fantastic, and the win showed we’re still a good team.

“At 21-7 down, John [Smit] told us that there were still 70 minutes to play.

“We believed we could still win, and ended up winning the next 70 minutes 37-10. We played for each other and showed a lot of pride.”

De Villiers agreed with Smit that the Boks were still well short of their best and had made far too many basic defensive errors.

“But we were in a negative spiral.

“The pressure is still there now, but we must make certain we continue to improve.”

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans said his side’s poor finishing and an inability to hold on to the ball in the second half had cost his team victory in a Test “we could have won.”

“We were unable to convert pressure and the Boks had us under pressure at the set piece where we came up short.

“There was a crucial lineout loss to Matfield in the 70th minute which was key.”

Coach Peter de Villiers praised the late influence of the Bok replacements.

“They did what we wanted from them. Last week they came on [against the All Blacks] and they did not have that impact so it is good to see the change,” he said.

“We managed to put pressure on their key players, but they are not suddenly a bad team,” he said, adding that the Wallabies have some dangerous steppers.

“They’ve got some good dancers in the team, guys who can dance without hearing any music.”

See page 18 for match report.

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