The Springboks have made South Africans proud in 2013, with 10 wins from 12 Tests, the only blight on their record 2 losses against the world’s No 1 side, the All Blacks from New Zealand. South Africa beat France on the weekend by 19 / 10 at Stade de France in Paris, capping off an undefeated tour.
But let’s put those 2 losses into some perspective… in New Zealand the Springboks were on the wrong side of poor reffereeing by Romain Poite, the French referee in charge of that match, resulting in the fact that the Springboks had to play 48 minutes without Bismarck du Plessis. In those circumstances, the Springboks were still highly competative and probably the most pleasing part was that the Springbok forwards dominated large parts of the game. The Springboks lost that one though, as the slow All Black poison came through for the home side in the end.
In South Africa it was do or die for the Springboks… go out and score 4 tries against the All Blacks and win by more than 7 was the challenge in The Rugby Championship, a tall order indeed! The Springboks managed their 4 tries but once again the slow poison of New Zealand worked in their fafour and they came back from behind in the last quarter to score their fourth and ultimately their fifth try, to also beat the Springboks.
So, well done to the All Blacks… and while we’re at it, well done on an All Black season of 14 wins from 14 Tests, what an enviable record, New Zealand certainly deserve the No 1 world crown at this juncture in time!
The positive side of the coin however for the Springboks is that South Africans, and the world in general, now realistically give the Springboks a chance against the All Blacks in every Test match, even away from home. Having looked at results on the End Of Year Tours by both the Springboks and All Blacks, it can also be argued that the Springboks had a slightly better tour north compared to the All Blacks, specially with the All Blacks only managing a last gasp win against Ireland with a try long after the hooter had sounded for full time on Sunday night. The Springboks also only conceded 1 solitary and fortunate try on the whole of the tour up north, whilst the All Blacks conceded far more.
Looking to the future of Springbok rugby, Heyneke Meyer said after the weekend’s Test against France that Jean de villiers will stay Springbok captain in 2014 and the total message out of the Springbok camp is that the Springboks will now aspire to the No 1 ranking spot in world rugby, from 2014 and thereafter.
That certainly implies that Heyneke Meyer wants to and needs to beat the All Blacks… but it does not stop there, seeing as the Springboks want to go to No 1, notwithstanding how or what the All Blacks do.
The Springboks certainly have improved their chances in 2013 to aspire to a World Cup win in 2015, in fact they are fast becomming joint favourites with the All Blacks in the race to this title.
Season ended on a high:
SA Rugby reports that the Springboks’ first victory over France in France in 16 years has capped off a season of marked improvement for Heyneke Meyer (coach), Jean de Villiers (captain) and their team.
The 19-10 win over France at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday evening, was the Springboks’ 10th out of 12 Tests this year, making the 2013 seasons statistically their most successful since 1998.
Including November 2012’s victories over Ireland, Scotland and England, the Boks have won 13 of their last 15 Tests.
With a winning percentage of 83.33%, the 2013 season will rank with those of 1995, when the Boks won all their games and the Rugby World Cup on home soil, 1998 (11 from 12 for 91.76%) and 2007 (14 from 17 for 82.35%) as the best since South Africa’s readmission in 1992.
The 47 tries the Boks scored in 2013 is also the most in a single season since 2007, when they scored 81 in 17 Tests. Since readmission in 1992, South Africa only got more tries in a season in 2007, 1999 (52 in 13 Tests) and 1997 (74 in 13 Tests). In 1998, they also scored 47.
Furthermore, the Springboks are the only side not to have lost a Test in the November Internationals since the last Rugby World Cup, with six wins in as many matches.
“We’ve had a good year and I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made as a team and in our results in 2013,” said Meyer.
“To finish the season with three good wins in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Paris is special, but we realise we are far from where we want to be and will keep on working hard to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
“The players deserve a lot of the credit though. Not only for the way they’ve played this season, but also for being the most humble group of men I’ve worked with, who put in massive amounts of hard work on the training field and for being a team South Africa can be proud of.
“We also enjoyed tremendous backing in South Africa as well as abroad and we’d like to thank our supporters for standing behind the team – it really means a lot to all of us.”
Springbok milestones in 2013:
- Their 73-13 win over Argentina at the FNB Stadium in Soweto was the biggest overall win in the history of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship / Tri-Nations.
- The nine tries they scored against Los Pumas was the most ever in a Rugby Championship match.
- The Springboks won their first-ever Test over Australia at Suncorp Stadium when they beat the Wallabies by 38-12. It was also their first win in Brisbane since 1971 and the first time since 2001’s 20-15 win in Pretoria that they managed to keep the Australians try-less.
- The 24-15 win over Wales in Cardiff was only second time since 1994 that the Welsh could not score a try against the Springboks. The other time was in 2008.
- South Africa’s 28-0 win at Murrayfield in Edinburgh was the first time since 1951 that Scotland could not score a point against the Springboks.
- The Springboks recorded their first victory over France in France since 1997.
Jean de Villiers will still be captain:
Sport24 reports that Heyneke Meyer said he is wary of making any long-term promises but has seen enough from De Villiers this year to be confident that he could do the job again next year.
De Villiers is contracted by SARU up to and including the 2015 Rugby World Cup. However, this does not guarantee that he will still be captain by then.
Meanwhile, Meyer also confirmed that lock Eben Etzebeth sustained an ankle injury against the French.
The WP lock limped off early in the first half and was replaced by Bakkies Botha. Etzebeth is on crutches and while there will be further assessment of the injury, he will not play for the Barbarians against Fiji next week.
Next Mission – World No 1:
Sport24 also reports that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer says they must hold a national brainstorming session to figure out a way to beat the All Blacks.
South Africa ended 2013 with 10 wins out of 12 following a 19-10 victory over France in Paris on Saturday night.
However, their two losses this year came against the world No 1 team who Meyer is yet to beat since he took charge of the Boks in 2012.
“There must be an overall strategy put in place to make South Africa the best. I can’t do it on my own,” Meyer said.
“We’ll have to hold a big planning camp to decide what it will take to get South Africa to the next level.
“For example, every coach in New Zealand would be able to tell you exactly what areas they need to work on.”
Meyer believes tactical kicking and conditioning are the two areas the Boks need to work the hardest on.
“New Zealand came together in 2009 after the All Blacks lost three times to the Springboks. They came to the conclusion that they could only beat us with better tactical kicking. They then recruited Mick Byrne as kicking coach.
“If you look at the game at Ellis Park (earlier this year), they kicked 42 times and we 21 times. We broke the line 19 times and scored four tries. They broke through seven times and scored five tries.
“The big thing however is that they can beat you with clever tactical kicking. You can’t beat them by running with the ball, because they are fitter (due to better conditioning) and you can’t floor them with kicking. If we don’t work on our conditioning then we’ll struggle to beat the All Blacks.”
Meyer also said South Africa must try find a uniform style of play for all teams, from junior levels right up to the seniors.
“For example, the under-20 team must have the same playing style as the Boks. If Pieter-Steph du Toit was schooled in the same way in the lineouts, the he would have been able to slot in seamlessly with us,” said Meyer.
SuperSport reports that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer ended the tour of Wales, Scotland and France happy with the depth he has in most positions building up to the World Cup in England in 2015, but he says he is still worried about what is available at No 5 lock.
Flip van der Merwe has adjusted to the role brilliantly in the past few months, and many critics believed that Meyer erred in not selecting Sharks youngster Pieter-Steph du Toit as a starter in one of the tests on this tour. However, Meyer’s reluctance to throw the youngster in at the deep end may have been vindicated when he lost some crucial lineouts against the throw in the closing stages of the 19-10 win over France at Stade de France at the weekend.
Not that Du Toit’s ability to do the job is what Meyer is concerned about and preventing him from selecting the recent age-group star into the starting team now.
“The No 5 lock runs the lineout and I don’t think people who are not involved realise what that entails and what a huge challenge it would be for a youngster like Pieter-Steph,” said Meyer during the tour wash-up with South African journalists in Paris on Sunday.
“I will give you an example that I hope you can carry across to your readers in a positive way. In the build-up to one of the games on this tour, Bakkies (Botha) and Pieter-Steph were training together in the same lineout formation, and because he was the middle of the lineout jumper, Pieter-Steph was leading the lineout.
“On one occasion Bakkies wasn’t the right spacing, and I saw Pieter-Steph go up to him and ask him very politely and respectfully if he would move. Because he is so much younger and less experienced than Bakkies, Pieter-Steph has a natural respect and even awe of someone like Bakkies. But what we need from the guy running the lineout is someone who will be forceful and take charge.”
Meyer is confident that Du Toit will be up to speed this time next year though.
“I have always said I have a plan with Pieter-Steph and you will see it come through next year. He will be bled into the system. By this time next year hopefully he will have several tests under his belt and he will be ready for the role I envisage for him. This time last year Eben Etzebeth had hardly played any tests, and look at him now. He is regarded as experienced and is up for the IRB Player of the Year award.”
Meyer says he rates Du Toit but believes that the Boks will need back-up in the most important position in the lineout. Juandre Kruger is out of favour while Andries Bekker, though probably available again in the World Cup year, is ruled out of playing international rugby for the time being by Japanese club commitments.
Meyer’s headache may be eased slightly if the Bulls play Van der Merwe at No 5 in next year’s Super Rugby, but there will be those who will see his words as an indication that he still might be looking for a way to pave the way for a Victor Matfield return.
Whatever the reality, he doesn’t have many problems in most other areas, and he has professed himself particularly happy with the way a potential weakness at tighthead has resolved itself on this tour.
“I was worried when Jannie du Plessis wasn’t available to tour because I wasn’t sure we had the back-up. But Frans Malherbe was thrown in at the deep end and as a youngster, I was really pleased with the way he played. I really think he is a big player for the future. And Coenie Oosthuizen was given his chance against France, and he took it with both hands. I was happy with his performance,” said Meyer.
“So suddenly we have three good players at tighthead. I am satisfied now that we are well covered there,” he added.
Patrick Lambie played well against Scotland when he got his chance at flyhalf against Scotland, and with Johan Goosen due to play again next year, the Boks look well covered in the all-important pivot position too, while Lambie looks set to continue to also cover fullback, where Willie le Roux has now established himself as the No 1.
“I don’t think people realise how much we have had to work with Pat. He was lining up way too deep when he first came to us, and we have had to get him to play closer to the gainline. He is starting to do that now and I have been really happy with his progress. Johan (Goosen) wasn’t able to play on this tour but I want to have him ready for the incoming tours next year and what he has picked up on this trip will hold him in good stead for that.
“As for Willie, I have already said that I have been astounded at how well he has responded to the coaching he has been given. When he first came to us he had no kicking game. But he worked on it and has now become a great tactical kicker and a good tactical fullback. I have a lot of faith in him now.
“We played him on the right wing in the home leg of the Rugby Championship, but fullback is his position. He struggles with his defensive game on the wing and missed three key tackles that may have cost us the game against the All Blacks. I am happier with him at fullback.”
Meyer never made mention of it, but that does though leave a potential problem at wing, where JP Pietersen’s strong showing since his rusty return in Cardiff has seen him re-establish himself as the only real option at No 14, with Bryan Habana also having no challengers at left wing.
Gio Aplon travelled on this tour ostensibly as a wing back-up more than a fullback reserve, but was never used because there were no injuries, and with the exception of perhaps Lwazi Mvovo, there aren’t many strong candidates back home.
Fourie du Preez’s return to the fold has partially solved the problem, but Meyer is also concerned about scrumhalf.
“I need a strong locally based scrumhalf to come through to add to the depth there but so far that isn’t really happening. I will be monitoring the progress of the youngsters closely during the coming Super Rugby season,” said the coach.