Rob Houwing

Boks to play down ‘emotion’

2013-09-30 06:56
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town - The Springboks will have cleared their heads of controversial events in Auckland when they tackle the All Blacks for a second time in the 2013 Castle Rugby Championship, a juicy title-decider at Ellis Park on Saturday.

As it happened: Boks v Wallabies

That was the assurance given by Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to Sport24 after Saturday’s clear-cut enough disposal of Australia at Newlands here which keeps South Africa in with a sniff at the crown despite the hazardous task of being required to beat the No 1-ranked side with four tries plus ensure more than seven-point daylight on the scoreboard.

Deep down, the Boks probably always suspected that the wily All Blacks would do enough to beat Argentina on their own terrain - in the early hours of Sunday morning in SA terms - with a full house of log points.

It was typical of the composure for which they are renowned that the defending World Cup champions dotted their fourth try in La Plata with only seconds left on the clock, which catapulted them to a very handy five points clear of second-placed South Africa in this year’s notably two-horse race.

But the Boks remain alive and kicking, with Meyer making it clear that they will not lose focus on their multi-tentacled objective next weekend by being over-amped, considering the public- and media-inspired hype about “revenge” for perceived Eden Park injustices in the Highveld-staged return clash.

“I’ll choose my words carefully,” said the Bok mastermind, when questioned on that topic by this writer.

“For the players it’s not a ‘revenge’ game. I’ve got the utmost respect for the All Blacks and their coaching staff; there’s mutual respect.

“So there’s no revenge to (talk of). We weren’t good enough on the day in the away game, and things happened that were beyond our control.

“We just want to go out there and ... the great thing about this team is we don’t play on emotion. We set ourselves very, very high standards and want to become the best in the world.

“Next week will be a big test: if you look at the previous Championship, we lost against Australia away, drew with Argentina away, so I truly believe there’s been a lot of improvement. I want to see more of that against the All Blacks.

“Obviously it would be great to win the game and (even greater) if we could win the Championship. But we don’t talk about revenge games.

“Obviously the fans (do), and it is tough for the All Blacks coming down here with all the support we’ll have. But we just want to go out there and make our country proud, put our bodies on the line. It’s just another game ... although a very big one for us.”

It is a tribute to the dynamic strides being made by the Bok class of 2013 that many of Meyer’s initial detractors - who lamented the way they ground out several narrow, attrition-based wins in his maiden season a year earlier - have surely been wooed on-side more recently.

Why shouldn’t a massive swathe of their loyal supporters, frankly, believe the possibility of thrashing the New Zealanders at a favourite, fast-paced and intimidating domestic venue is very much “on”?

Few could quibble, after all, with captain Jean de Villiers’s statement after the sometimes red-hot, occasionally slightly ragged 28-8 downing of the Wallabies: “We have won four out of five games (in the competition) and are playing a great brand of rugby.

“Now we want to see how we match up against the best side in the world again.”

On the subject of De Villiers, who remains in such sparkling personal form despite his immense playing load, maybe it is a good little omen that he got on the try-sheet the last time the Boks toppled New Zealand in the manner they will be required to on Saturday (four tries or more themselves, and no form of bonus point at all in defeat for their foes).

It was en route to the former Tri-Nations trophy and at the very same Johannesburg-based cauldron in 2004, when South Africa won 40-26 (also the last meeting between the countries there).

The Boks crossed the “wash” five times to two that day, with a famous hat-trick going the way of midfielder Marius Joubert, and Breyton Paulse also touching down.

I believe it may be fair enough to suggest the Boks are slight favourites to knock over the All Blacks on home turf on Saturday, yet fairly substantial underdogs for being able to do so by the strenuous requirements involved to seize the crown as well.

But under the tenure of Meyer, De Villiers and company, this particular squad is clearly ambitious, goal-driven and vibrant.
It will be a major surprise if they turn up lacking the collective will at jam-packed Ellis Park to make the “impossible” happen ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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