Sydney - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said that the rookies packed into the South Africa team which succumbed 39-20 to Australia in a Tri-Nations Test on Saturday would hopefully realise just how tough the step up to Test rugby is.
South Africa left 21 injured players at home ahead of the away-leg of their Tri-Nations campaign.
The upshot of the decision was that three players, props Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling and eighthman Ashley Johnson were making their debut against Australia while lock Alistair Hargreaves was making his run-on debut.
Wings Lwazi Mvovo and Bjorn Basson and flank Deon Stegman had all played less than five Tests for their country prior to the Australia clash.
It’s not by choice that we are touring with such a lot of new guys,” De Villiers said after the match.
“I felt sorry for John (Smit) at times during the match. To be captain is one thing but not to have some leadership around you to help calm the new guys down is tough.
“I hope the lessons that they learnt today, as to the difference between playing for your country and Super Rugby level which is quite remarkable,” De Villiers added.
Smit said that he was pleased with the way the youngsters had stuck to their guns despite trailing Australia by 39-6 at one stage before two late Springbok tries added a touch of gloss to the final score.
“In terms of the 80 minutes as a whole, there were moments when we were guilty of lack of concentration which really counted against us. But what I enjoyed with a younger side is that they chased to the death,” said Smit.
“There were some tries that went a begging for the Wallabies because there was a lot of guts and chasing from the youngsters to make sure that that didn’t happen. Those are the kinds of things that we can draw upon.
We will have to learn from this, let those guys take in the experience and then be pretty harsh on Monday because we didn’t execute the things that we trained to do for three weeks,” he explained.
Smit went on to say that although the final result was not “great” there were one or two positives to come out of the match.
“When these guys felt that they could get go forward ball, they got control of the game and they got a bit of composure and they realised how easy the game could be. They would have learnt though that at this level, turnovers can hurt you. Those are the type of thing we will concentrate on at training this week,” he concluded.
While the result may have been a bitter pill to swallow the news for De Villiers got worse when he confirmed that locks Alistair Hargreaves (abdominal strain) and Flip van der Merwe (rib) had both picked up injuries during the match.
The full extent of the injuries had yet to be assessed but the potential loss of the duo ahead of Saturday’s clash with New Zealand has left De Villiers in a precarious position.
“Never rains but it pours,” De Villiers lamented.
“I don’t know, are there any locks left in South Africa? It’s bad news for us but you have to overcome these things,” he concluded.