Johannesburg - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has challenged his forward pack to repeat their form of the last two games, in order to lay the platform for a historic win over the All Blacks at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
According to the supersport.com website, the Bok pack has taken immense strides this year from the young but talented bunch that took the field against England, but have already established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
And while the All Blacks deny it, they were on the wrong side of domination up front for most of the game, with the forwards taking another step up against Australia at Loftus.
Meyer praised their effort, which is crucial to the team’s fortunes against the world champions this weekend, and challenged them to do better.
“I’m very happy with our forwards and Johan van Graan should get a lot of credit there. If you look at how many loose forwards are injured - as well as Bismarck (du Plessis) and Chili (Chiliboy Ralepelle) out.
“They have shown in the last three games they are developing into a formidable unit. We were superb in the lineouts, and Andries Bekker played probably his best game for the Boks - he made 19 tackles. It’s the highest I’ve seen from a lock, so he is hitting form.
“A lot of the forwards are hitting form at the moment and with Duane (Vermeulen) and Flo (Francois Louw) both competing on the ground it is a different sort of combination, but it is working well. It is a workmanlike pack and Flo was awesome on the weekend.
“But I said to them it’s no use doing it once or twice, they have to compete at that level week in and out and Saturday will be a big test for them.”
Meyer also had special praise for Ruan Pienaar, who took a lot of pressure off Johan Goosen in Pretoria.
“Ruan was great, and I told him to take pressure off Johan. His tactical kicking was good and his service was awesome. If you look at the stats, we got a lot of quick ball and he was always there. By saying that, the Highveld the ball travels better and the kicks are more accurate, whereas at sea level you kick either too long or too short.
“It was a good performance, and it is important for us that our scrumhalf plays well if you want to play good rugby and a lot of the players are hitting form right now.”
Meyer added the team was hungry to win this game, as it would give them a clean sweep of their home games this year, and gives them a lot of confidence going into the end of year tour. Having said that, he did point out that the team was still molding itself into a unit, and they had grown closer having to face some tough challenges this year.
“You start by playing the fourth best team in the world - England. Every week everyone wants you to play the best rugby you’ve ever played but you haven’t even had the time to implement the basics.
“Looking back now, we played well against Argentina in Cape Town and then you’re straight overseas for three tough games away from home. In every game we improved in how we played, but there are youngsters who are adapting, so it will always be difficult.
“We haven’t changed any moves - it just works like this. If you get into their half with a great kick, obviously they will kick back and it will continue until one team makes a mistake. If you’re pinned down in your own half, obviously you won’t run everything.
“We haven’t changed one move, nor the game plan. Obviously the personnel do have an effect, but we always play better at home and on the Highveld. What we did better was the execution of the game plan. I also feel the players are starting to know what I want and they took a huge amount of confidence out of the New Zealand game in Dunedin.
“Confidence is contagious, as is a lack of confidence and the more you have confidence, the more you will move the 50-50 ball. I’ve always said this is a process and if we win on Saturday, we would have won all our home games and we can look forward to the end of year tour.”
Meyer named the same starting line-up that beat Australia last weekend for Saturday’s Test, with the only change coming on the bench where where Coenie Oosthuizen takes over from Pat Cilliers as prop replacement.
Kick-off is at 17:00.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Patrick Lambie