Every point vital for Boks

Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)

Pretoria - Having learnt the lesson that bonus points lost are bonus points squandered, the Springboks will head into this year’s Rugby Championship knowing that every single point counts if they want to win their first title under coach Heyneke Meyer.

The supersport.com website reports that last season’s Rugby Championship not only showed the difference in the way the Springboks had altered their game, upped their attacking play and had become a real force for the World Champion All Blacks to deal with, it also showed just how lopsided the Rugby Championship is.

After all, South Africa’s travel problems are unique – they are the only side to have to face three weeks away from home in the competition in a row – and then return to two home games against Australia and New Zealand to settle the title.

Still, while it might be a tougher road to travel, the rewards are greater in that getting it right will put them on course for a good Rugby World Cup next year and give the rest of the rugby world something to think about.

Yet, to do that they need to hit the ground running.

Virtually every member of the Boks fronting up to the media this week has made a case that the four points on offer against Los Pumas at Loftus Versfeld this weekend count the same as four points in Wellington or Perth.

And they’re right. The difference is that the Boks need bonus points, something that cost them last year when they weren’t able to get one in Mendoza and more crucially in Cape Town against Australia after scoring three first half tries.

Meyer is keen to continue this upward trend and has been sprouting the gospel of playing a faster, quicker and more dominant game all year now, rather than Bok coaches of old that preferred to slow the tempo down to try and negate the Southern Hemisphere strengths of the SANZAR nations.

Meyer knows the only way is to continue with this trend, one that brought 47 tries last year, and 23 in the four internationals played this year alone.

Scoring tries means greater chance of bonus points and winning with bonus points means there is a greater chance of winning the Championship.

That’s why perhaps the focus has changed for the Boks this year.

While the Championship is the ultimate goal over the next three months, ensuring they give themselves every opportunity it priority No 1.

"You can’t take it game by game, because if you look at last year, we had one or two chances to get a bonus point and we didn’t, and I think that cost us against the All Blacks at the end," Meyer explained.

"You don’t want to ease off and try and make it up in the last two games.

"The whole mindset must change.

"We need to get every single point that we can in every single game.

"If that means a bonus point then so be it, but that must be the mindset.

“But if you go out there with no respect for the ball and throw the ball around, you will get hammered.

"That is not our mindset, our mindset is to be excellent in every scrum, every lineout and every breakdown and then the scoreboard will take care of itself and the bonus points as well.

"Argentina are a much-improved side and they’ve always been difficult to play against, even the All Blacks have struggled against them at times.

"We are just going to go out there and play the best rugby we can against them for 80 minutes and the scoreboard will take care of itself.”

While a lot has been made of their battle with the All Blacks, the Boks have been hit by both injury and overseas disruptions, something that the All Blacks don’t seem to have.

The biggest difference is that this Bok team is growing in belief, and they know they can go out there and win away from home.

What the Boks are hoping for is a strong competition, one that the All Blacks will also struggle to get bonus points in, and one which will make the playing field a lot more level than the home and away wins the All Blacks picked up in both Australia and Argentina last year.

"You have to believe you can win the title every year, otherwise there won’t be any belief in the players.

"I believe these first two games are going to be the most important for us, because I’m happy with our continuity among the forwards, but the one thing we still need to establish is continuity among the backs. We haven’t found our rhythm among the backs yet.

"The great thing about that is when we get to the World Cup, we will have two excellent backlines.

"But you want to go out there and win every single game. I’m disappointed if the Boks lose any game, we want to go out and win every game and then the Championship and World Cup will take care of itself.

"I truly believe there is a belief among the players we can beat any team in the world, home and away, and the great thing now is that we’ve won seven out of our last eight games away from home.

"That is the one thing I feel we need to be able to do – is win away from home and we can do that.

"Every single game between now and the World Cup will always be a 50-50 game and I don’t think there is a lot of difference between the top sides in the world.

"Australia will be much stronger this year, and if you want to win the championship, you have to have four strong teams who can all win at home and get bonus points."

And that all starts at Loftus, where a bonus point is not only needed, but a necessity if the Boks are to have any chance of the title later on.

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