Windhoek - The Namibian XV gave the shadow Springboks one heck of a game for most of the way in what was really a glorified trial for some of the South African fringe players – but Peter de Villiers did not give the impression afterwards that he was going to lose any sleep.
The Springbok coach, reflecting on a laboured 36-7 win that looked in serious doubt up to around the hour mark, said that many of the mistakes had been anticipated by the coaching staff beforehand.
“It was a first game together and we had a lot of new guys who knew they were getting their one opportunity to stake a claim and they wanted to make the most of it,” said De Villiers.
“As a result of that we were perhaps too individualistic, and the players tried too much on their own. This prevented us from getting cohesion and momentum as a team.”
Skipper John Smit agreed that it was this aspect that allowed the Namibian Invitational XV, who more resembled a Bulls invitational side both in personnel and in the type of game they played, to get into the game and trouble his team for the first hour.
“I think we got it wrong tactically in the first half, and this allowed the Namibians to play on us and force mistakes,” said Smit.
“But as the coach says, there were a lot of young guys wanting to show what they could do. They felt they needed to do something special to catch the eye.”
It is true that individuals get less chance to stand out if you adopt the finals/winning rugby pattern, and it does hopefully explain why the South Africans, when pegged into their own half, persisted in trying to run the ball back at their opponents from positions where it would have been far wiser to kick.
Time and again the South Africans were dispossessed, forced into mistakes, and against a team with a better attacking dynamic able to exploit their massive territorial advantage, the shadow Boks could have been in deep trouble.
As it was, a 36-7 win was probably less than many people expected, though you have to acknowledge the role that the Namibians played in the game. De Villiers afterward said he was a bit disappointed with the Namibian attitude, saying that he expected more Namibians to be in the side.
“It was a good show that was put on for the spectators, and I suppose from that point of view the Namibian union got something out of it, but they got nothing out of this game from the viewpoint of preparing Namibia for the next World Cup, which was one of the reasons we agreed to this game,” said De Villiers.
He agreed though that the Namibian selection, with former Bulls players being complemented by players from that union’s Vodacom Cup team, had probably helped his own side’s buildup more than would have been the case had the shadow Boks run riot.
For a start, it showed the Boks the importance of having a kicker capable of being a dominant force in the territory game, something that Earl Rose appeared to some extent to get right when he was moved from fullback to flyhalf later in the match.
And Smit was able afterwards to reflect on perhaps his best work-out yet in preparation for his probable role as a tighthead against the British and Irish Lions.
“He (Kees Lensing) really came at me and tested me, which was great, because that is what I can expect in a couple of weeks from the Lions,” said Smit.
“It was also great to get in a full 80 minutes at last. I have not done that since the Sharks played the Stormers (in the first week of the Super 14).”
The scrumming was quite problematic on occasion, but as assistant Gary Gold pointed out afterwards, the scrumming unit will have an entirely different look to it against the Lions. So will the Springbok team, which after last night is a good thing.