Rugby World Cup 2011

Smit lauds gutsy Boks

2011-09-17 13:24
John Smit (AFP)

Wellington - South Africa's comprehensive dismantling of a vaunted attacking Fiji side was a "step in the right direction" after a mediocre showing against Wales, according to captain John Smit.

The Sprinboks scrapped to a 17-16 victory over the Welsh in their opening game but rebounded to dispatch Fiji 49-3 on Saturday to keep their path to the defence of their Rugby World Cup crown on target.

"That first 15-20 minutes was pretty brutal," Smit said of a period of the game with the score tied at three points apiece.

"Fiji basically came out there on a mission, but the boys stuck to it and it was good to see how the guys matched fire with fire, and were accurate numbers wise and the decision making was good.

"We started so slowly last week. We'd been talking about how to match aggressive attitude with composure in terms of how you want to play.

"It also helps when you've got a defence like ours, making it difficult for attacking teams and frustrating guys as well."

Not only was that defence solid in that opening 20 minutes, it helped create space for the playmakers and the Springboks themselves turned on the style, spurning the kicking game to open up their hard-running backs.

South Africa eventually scored six tries and kept Fiji to Seremia Bai's lone penalty kick.

"We must be ruthless on defence," said coach Peter de Villiers. "We take pride in our defence.

"It was nice to keep them out. We set ourselves targets and one of the targets was to defend the tryline and we did that with honours today(Saturday)."

But De Villiers said there were a "few things" his side needed to work on, also praising how his side "broke down the ball in front of us with our directness and created out wide our opportunities to score tries".

"We ticked most of the boxes. But the first 20 minutes belonged to Fiji. We missed five or six tackles and gave the momentum to Fiji," he said.

Smit said South Africa had improved vastly on their showing against Wales.

"The intention was to get better every single weekend," the hooker said. "We were aware that we came into the tournament pretty undercooked from a game time points of view so it was good to progress.

"It's a good stepping stone for where we need to go.

"A lot of guys got some valuable time. Some guys really put their hands up. Last week we had a couple of guys playing well, this week we had a couple more and hopefully that will keep progressing.

"Last week I wouldn't have given us a very good mark, but this week we really did control the game both when we had the ball and when we didn't have the ball and we couldn't have said that last week."

He added: "We made sure we played on our own terms," but warned that World Cups were "not won in week two".

"The nice thing about this week is that we got closer to how we prepared," Smit said.

"It was good to see a few smiles out there. You could feel the old vibe back. There was an easiness about the pre-match preparation. You've got to enjoy those experiences.

"We've got to make sure you replicate them every week, take that attitude into every game."


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