Perth - The Springboks will be the underdogs when they take on Australia in the Rugby Championship in Perth on Saturday despite the hosts having lost both their matches in this year’s tournament, South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer told supersport.com on Monday.
Australia have copped a fearful bashing from the media and their supporters alike for the manner of their back-to-back 27-19 and 22-0 losses to the All Blacks with coach Robbie Deans coming under increasing pressure.
But Meyer said that Australia could never be taken for granted and pointed to their recent record against South Africa, the Wallabies have won the last four Tests between the two countries, as just one reason why the home team were the favourites heading into Saturday’s clash at Paterson’s Stadium.
“Australia are going to come out all guns blazing,” Meyer said in a wet and windy Perth on Monday.
“They are a proud team and they have been together for quite some time. I have the highest respect for Robbie Deans as a coach. There is obviously a lot of pressure on them and we are probably the underdogs.
“We don’t have a good record against them. We have lost four out of four against them, and won one out of seven, which shows how tough it is to play against Australia. Even though New Zealand beat them quite convincingly they are still a quality side,” he explained.
Meyer has come under increasing pressure himself after the Boks scrapped a 16-16 draw against Argentina in Mendoza but he said he understood the fans’ frustration and that nobody was more disappointed with the performance than he was.
“We knew that three away games were going to be tough and hopefully the guys have learnt from the Argentina game. I have high standards and I want the players to have high standards and the biggest disappointment is when you disappoint yourself.
“The team is much better than they showed (against Argentina) and I do take it personally because we want to make the whole country proud,” he explained.
There are already signs that Meyer is prepared to change his approach with the call-up of Francois Louw, a specialist openside flank, to the squad and a hint that Francois Hougaard might be shifted from scrumhalf to wing against Australia with Ruan Pienaar taking over the No 9 jumper.
“I’ve always said that we will have a horses-for-courses attitude. Hougaard gives you something different on the wing while Ruan is a little bit more experienced and he has a brilliant kicking game so he can take some of the pressure off of (flyhalf) Morné Steyn. It is not a definite thing but we are looking at that option,” he said.
Louw’s call-up to the squad has gone some way to satisfying critics who pointed to South Africa being outplayed at the breakdown by Argentina but Meyer said that, although he was pleased with what a fetcher-flank could bring to the table, the whole team had to take responsibility for the breakdown failings.
“I want the option of a specialist openside, maybe on the bench. Northern Hemisphere refs are normally a bit more lenient at the breakdown and I want us to be covered there. But I’ve said before that the whole team needs to be able to compete on the ground and at the breakdown.
“Our problem, against Argentina, was not just taking the opposition’s ball at the breakdown, it was protecting our own ball at the breakdown and that is not just the openside’s role that is the whole team’s responsibility. We need to be more effective at the breakdown, our body height should be lower and we should clean out more effectively,” he concluded.