Five-match hurdle awaits Boks
Johannesburg - Another five big challenges lie in wait before the 2009 season is something of the past.
This realisation has dawned on Springbok captain John Smit on the eve of his team’s European tour when the tour kicks off with a game against the Leicester Tigers on Friday.
From a fan’s point of view, South Africans can probably not ask for more than a season that has yielded a Super 14 trophy, a series win over the British and Irish Lions and a Tri-Nations title.
However, for Smit the season is not yet over.
“Yes, we’ve had a good season, but three Tests remain. It’s a big challenge that lies ahead and we start against a tough French team.
There are also games against club sides (Leicester and Saracens) that have players from all over the world. That amounts to five big challenges,” said Smit.
There are a number of stumbling blocks, including South Africa’s patchy record against France and Ireland in recent years. However, it also serves as motivation for a team keen on rising to the occasion.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said he did not want to make excuses, but he knows his team will be tested to the limit.
“We allowed the players to play in the Currie Cup and we could see how it contributed to the quality of the play. But we now play against France and Ireland, and they are going to take the game to us,” he said.
“It’s not difficult to maintain the standards that we set, but the players are psychologically tired. We’ll have to think about how to overcome that.”
South Africa are the top-ranked side and De Villiers wants to keep them there. It’s not easy to do that in Northern Hemisphere conditions.
Toulouse, where the Boks play France, is not a regular destination for South Africa and they will also play in Udine for the first time against Italy.
And after years of competition at Lansdowne Road against Ireland, Croke Park awaits. It’s a huge stadium that will be filled with passionate Irish fans.