Johannesburg - The Springboks may have ground out their second consecutive Rugby Championship win in Port Elizabeth on Saturday but they will need to improve significantly ahead of this week’s competition finale against the All Blacks in Pretoria.
The Boks won 23-12 through a good first half performance and some sublime defence in the second but know that after their shock win in Wellington a few weeks back the world’s best side will arrive in Gauteng with more than a point to prove this week.
And the Boks know they need to be better. Even their talisman, the energiser tackler Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has relished his return to the side of the scrum, and took the man-of-the-match award on Saturday, is in no doubt about what they need to do.
“We definitely will have to fix a few things, we didn’t play well today and we made a few mistakes especially in the exit zone and in the attacking zones we didn’t finish,” Du Toit told SuperSport.com.
“And especially playing against the All Blacks they are going to come with everything they’ve got. We beat them there so they will try to prove a point.
“But we have a point to prove as well. We beat them there and now we need to show we are capable of beating them here as well.”
Du Toit’s point is quite simple. The Boks found some new resolve in the Wellington win and a step backwards would mean that nothing much had changed. One-off wins happen in modern sport but a good team growing needs to turn that one win into something more consistent. And that means taking a step forward in each game they play.
“We know that we aren’t there yet, and we can still go down again. So we need to work on consistency and especially next week against the All Blacks in Pretoria, you don’t get better than that. That, coupled with the idea we will have a few days off afterwards, is more than enough motivation for the game that is coming,” he added.
Already the top tackler in the tournament this year, Du Toit has been a nightmare for attackers as they try to get past his big frame. But the shift back to seven and some work with defence coach Jacques Nienaber has paid dividends for him.
“It is something that was new to me at the beginning of the season but luckily the coaches are there and they are backing me and making my job quite easy as well with the pack around me. We have a simple plan and we are just trying to execute it and luckily I am playing well at the moment.
And the defence is a massive part of his, and the Springboks’ game.
“That is something we pride ourselves in - the defence. And especially with South African teams we try and get that physicality back and try to put the defence on the back foot. It is something we try to get into our game and hopefully we will get it right in the next few games as well.
“After the game I ask myself why but when I sit there it is a happy pain. So then when we get the win it is all worth it, I can’t complain about that.
“A couple of years ago people would have said I have a (defensive) problem but you don’t know that we went through four defensive coaches in one season. It makes a big difference in getting your mindset around that. But we worked a lot on our tackle defence with Jacques (Nienaber) and he is a great defence coach. Working with him he helped me a lot, especially with my technique, and especially with the rules of the game changing, it will be more on low tackles now, and not high. That is something we are trying to improve in our team’s tackling as well.”
Du Toit said the team weren’t that frustrated at missing out on a number of scoring opportunities on Saturday, but they know they will need to be more clinical this weekend.
“I wont say it is frustrating but we did let ourselves down and we need to learn to execute that better. If we do that we will hopefully put a bigger score on the opposition and win by a bigger margin with our defence getting there as well.”
The Boks kick off their preparations in Pretoria on Monday for the final game of the tournament.