Boks give up on Tri-Nations
Wellington - Springboks coach Peter de Villiers surrendered all hope of winning the Tri-Nations crown after they were routed by the All Blacks 40-7 on Saturday and said the focus was now the World Cup.
Fielding a largely B-strength side, the South Africans were thrashed by Australia and New Zealand in their two away games, conceding bonus points both times.
Although there is a statistical chance they can claw their way back into contention with two home games to play, de Villiers said his attention was already on the looming World Cup, where the Springboks are defending champions.
"Pretty much the Tri-Nations has gone for us. We'll move our focus to preparing for the World Cup," he said as he surveyed the hammering his young squad had taken on their Australasian tour.
"The All Blacks are more ready now (than the Springboks) for the World Cup and they deserve the tag of favourites to win it."
That the Springboks were comprehensively outplayed by the All Blacks a week after being thrashed 39-20 by the Wallabies was not a surprise considering they left 21 key players at home.
Media reports from South Africa said the 21 were in a secret World Cup training camp but this has been denied by the team management, who said they were all injured and undergoing rehabilitation.
De Villiers said he was unsure how many of the 21 would be available for South Africa's remaining Tri-Nations games against Australia in Durban on August 13 and the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth a week later.
The players will undergo medical tests next week, but even if most are given the all-clear de Villiers expressed reservations about making too many changes, saying it may not be in the best interests of the side.
A disconsolate Springboks captain John Smit said that despite the satisfaction of scoring his side's only try against the All Blacks it was always terrible to lose.
"We're gutted with the effort of the last two weeks. We'll try to pull as many positives as we can out of it. But at the end of the day it's disappointing."
He also rated the All Blacks highly going into the World Cup, which starts in New Zealand on September 9, saying their ability to cash in on turnover ball made life difficult for any opposition.
"They've got some special players at the back and they're waiting for any kind of turnover to pounce on," said Smit.
"So any team that plays them has to be aware that if you don't take care of your ball you're going to be in a large amount of trouble."
The All Blacks outscored the Springboks six tries to one in a match where they missed only seven tackles while the South Africans missed 24.