Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - By his own admission Springbok coach Peter de Villiers hasn’t slept much since the defeat to Scotland last week.
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The nightmare of the 21-17 loss to the Scots kept going around in De Villiers’ mind all weekend, and he told a press conference this week that he, skipper Victor Matfield and the assistant coaches had watched the game again on video “several times” before resolving to put it behind them and move onto the challenge posed by England at Twickenham this coming Saturday.
While disappointed with the Scotland performance, De Villiers and the player leadership group have not forgotten what went right against Ireland in the first match of the tour and at some stages of an otherwise disappointing performance against Wales the following week.
In a nutshell, and this certainly isn’t the first time this season that they have arrived at this conclusion, they believe there is no need to reinvent the Springbok game. Instead, what they are working at this week is improving their execution, which is where they felt it all went wrong last week in Edinburgh.
“I spent a lot of time watching the game again, sitting with Victor and the other coach, and what we saw was that what we didn’t do well was our execution, “ said De Villiers.
“This week we have been working on our execution, and I have been so glad to see how it has come through in training. We hope to convert all of our efforts into points on Saturday.”
But for much of the Scotland game the Boks also seemed to be between game-plans. They never looked quite sure whether they should be kicking for position or looking to hold onto the ball, and in the end they did neither particularly well. This uncertainty is something that skipper Matfield, who said after the game that perhaps there had been too much thought about expansive rugby in conditions that weren’t conducive to it, appears to have picked up on.
“The important thing is that we need to believe in what we do, and then execute those things that we want to do when we are out there,” said Matfield.
“At Murrayfield every time we got into the strike zone we would build up for no more than one or two phases, and then lose the ball. You can’t build pressure on an opposing team if you do that, and that is what this game is all about, placing pressure on the opposition.
“Instead the pressure was placed on us. We must change that against England. We must find a way to put them under pressure.”
The Boks weren’t helped by the string of penalties awarded against them by Australian referee Stuart Dickinson between the 14th minute and the 29th minute at Murrayfield, and Matfield appeared to lose his rag with the match official towards the end. However Matfield believes it is up to the Boks to take away the refereeing factor.
“It was very difficult, and when we were being penalised it was very frustrating. But we need to be good enough on the day so you are not in a position to get short stick in that situation. The key is to put the other team under pressure and not allow ourselves to be placed under pressure.”