Boks to make country proud

Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)

Cape Town - The Springboks' first match of the year, against the World XV at Newlands on Saturday, will prove to a valuable stock-taking exercise for national team coach Heyneke Meyer.

Saturday's clash, which kicks off at 5.05pm, would be the first of 14 Tests in 2014, where Meyer's primary goal would be to improve on the performances of last year. "Our aim for the season is to accelerate and make a step up from 2013," Meyer said on Friday.

"To put ourselves in a position to do that, we simply have to start well. We're expecting a stern test on Saturday and our mindset is to make our nation proud. It should never be anything else when the Springboks play.

"It will also be a good way to start the season before our first Test next week against Wales, but for now we're only focused on the World XV and playing well."

As many of the Bok players had been drawn from last year's team, Meyer felt his side had a head start against the World XV.

"It's positive to have this kind of continuity in our first start of the year," said Meyer.

"Even though we'll be starting with a new midfield combination, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen have both played more than 50 Tests for the Boks and, with Bryan Habana also in the backline, Cornal Hendricks will start with a lot of experience around him."

The match afforded an opportunity to some of the South Africans in the World XV to press for future inclusion in the Boks squad. However, Meyer said individual performances in the match would not change the way he rated the players.

"I have done my homework. I have watched the overseas guys in action and studied all of them, so if I suddenly picked one of them based on one performance in a one-off game, that would be an indication I had not done my homework.

"Anyone can play well in one game, played over 80 minutes. It is the form and ability over a period that I judge."

World XV coach Nick Mallett said he was clear on what his charges needed to do against the Boks.

"What is going to be absolutely paramount on Saturday is stopping the Springboks' ability to go forward," Mallett said.

"They are such a good team and they are so physical that you can have the most skilful players in the world but if you don't get front-foot ball it is very difficult for them to play."

He would be relying heavily on his South African locks Alistair Hargreaves and Juandre Kruger to win the ball in the World XV throw-ins, and front up well in the tight loose play.

"One would agree that both of those players are middle of the line-out jumpers, but they are both very athletic so we will be getting good movement out of them around the field," Mallett said.

"They both will contribute in the tight-loose. They are not your Eben Etzebeth's, your Bakkies Botha's who are going to smash rucks but I think what is more important in a game like this, especially when you are playing a pack like the Springboks, is you have got to win your line-out ball."

The matter of first-phase ball was crucial for the star-studded World XV backline to function to their full potential.

"It is so important to try and provide ball to this backline and line-outs are your key set-piece attacking phase.

"If you are battling from a line-out point of view you can't really launch an attack.

"We are not so naive as to think that you can just pick 15 skilful players and beat a well organised international side."

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