Johannesburg - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers couldn’t put it more plainly. Despite all the talk of resting players and the World Cup next year, the only focus on the upcoming Grand Slam tour next month is winning.
De Villiers went through a torrid performance review after the Tri-Nations, and while there were calls for his head at the time, he was given a vote of confidence to continue at the helm of the World Champs.
But it is clear that he has been told in no uncertain terms that success on the Grand Slam tour is a pre-requisite to continuing in the job, with it been made clear that the Springbok brand cannot suffer further.
That, and the insistence of some senior players that they want to tour, despite the negative scientific facts that support a rest before the World Cup, has led De Villiers to change his mind and when the selectors name the side after the Absa Currie Cup final next week, it is likely to be a strong team with several senior stalwarts in its ranks.
As much as the first game against Ireland is being seen as the key to the tour – talk is of resting players if the game is won at the new Aviva stadium – there is no doubt that De Villiers is under pressure to get his win ratio up on this tour.
He intimated as much when he was quizzed about his approach to the tour on Friday, admitting that winning was the only option on this tour.
“Normally we fight about little things between us three coaches,” De Villiers said, “But those are usually small things we don’t agree on. One thing we all agree on is being successful and we are determined to win these games on tour.
“Winning will never be compromised and while there are some things we don’t have control over, we are definitely never going to make it easy for any opposition on this tour.”
But underlining it all is the amount of planning that has gone into the Ireland game. De Villiers wants, and needs a good start to this tour to lift some of the pressure. Still, while the rest of the country waits with bated breath to see how the Springboks will fare, the coach is still upbeat despite a 12 month period that has brought more disappointment than fans are used to with the Green and Gold jersey.
“I really don’t think the last 12 months were that disappointing. All the games we lost, bar one, we were within six points of winning. It is true things didn’t go our way, but most of the time we were pretty on the money in trying to execute what we wanted to do,” De Villiers added.
“We’ve done a lot of planning with Ireland in mind. The two assistant coaches have done a lot of hard work on Ireland and we have discussed and made it clear where we want to be after that game.”