Div: We can take on the world
Cape Town - He could take on the world with Rassie Erasmus as technical advisor on his management team and always knew that senior Springboks would hit their straps.
That was the word from Springbok coach Peter de Villiers when quizzed on Tuesday about the state of Springbok rugby. On Wednesday, there are 100 days to go before the World Cup kick-off in New Zealand.
"I don’t know whether Rassie has a life outside rugby. He eats, drinks and even rests rugby! With his technical knowledge and my man management skills, I believe we can take on the world."
De Villiers recently announced that Erasmus and conditioning expert Derik Coetzee would come on board as consultants for the World Cup, which starts on 9 September. The Bok coach said that they had already made valuable contributions.
"The one thing that Rassie and Derik have brought to the environment is the insight that you could improve on something as soon as you are able to measure it. It's a component that we did not have previously," said De Villiers.
"Now that we have that, we can help players reach the next level."
It's not as if De Villiers is complaining about the level that many of his senior players are operating at in Super Rugby at the moment.
While the form of senior Boks was a major point of discussion in the media earlier this year and concern was expressed that a number of them may be past their prime, the majority of the players have upped their game in recent weeks and allayed some fears.
"I was never worried," said De Villiers.
"Take Bakkies Botha as example. He carried the ball a lot more than usual in the first few games, but is focusing on cleaning rucks again and suddenly you see the ball come out to the scrumhalf a lot quicker.
"Take Pierre Spies, who was also off form. He is good off a scrum going forward, but the Bulls scrum has struggled until recently. He struggled because he could not carry the ball. Suddenly everything is falling into place and it's looking good for us."
De Villiers's focus now shifts to the Tri-Nations and the tournament will also be important to sharpen the match fitness of injured senior players such as flank Juan Smith and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez ahead of the World Cup.
Du Preez's praises were again sung by the coach, who did not believe the scrumhalf's form was poor to begin with.
"Everybody said he was not good enough, but the team won back 60% of his kicks. How much better does he have to be?"
Smith's fitness is important to De Villiers because of the fear that the flank strikes into the hearts of opponents.
"If you remove Juan from the team, you take away the fear of your opponents. Why would we want to make it easier for opponents?"
De Villiers also believes that the Cheetahs, Stormers and Lions' recent victories over New Zealand opponents demonstrates that South Africa have nothing to fear.
"If we can beat teams in New Zealand, just think how well we could do against any nation if our preparation is good," said De Villiers.
"New Zealand would like to avoid lineouts against us. They fear Victor Matfield."
The Bok coach's only fear are potential injuries that could strike between now and the World Cup, especially with a number of tough South African derbies still coming up in the Super Rugby tournament.
He will keep the core of his experienced players for the World Cup and play to a pattern with which they are comfortable.
"I understand the psyche of my team and how they are inter-dependent on one another," said De Villiers.