Springboks

Boks hit 2014 speed bump

2014-12-22 14:18
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Following two years of steady improvement, the Springboks hit a speed bump this year, showing signs of decline a year out from the Rugby World Cup in England.

The Springboks came into the season on the back of their best year under the tutelage of coach Heyneke Meyer, winning 10 of their 12 matches.

While Meyer managed to get the monkey off his back with a victory against the All Blacks, the Springboks won nine of their 13 games.

A plethora of injuries did not help his cause and Meyer used the opportunity to strengthen his depth in several positions, particularly at flyhalf where Junior Springbok captain Handre Pollard emerged as the heir apparent to the number-10 jersey.

Earning his first Test cap against Scotland only a week after he led the Junior Springboks into the final at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand - which they lost to England - Pollard showed maturity which belied his young age of 20.

The most costly blow for the team came in the 12-6 defeat to Wales in Cardiff during their final Test of the year when dynamic captain Jean de Villiers suffered a knee injury.

On his return to South Africa, De Villiers underwent successful surgery on his knee, leaving him in a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup in England next year.

De Villiers' started the international season missing the June incoming series against Wales and Scotland with a knee injury.

In his absence Victor Matfield wore the captain's armband in what was his first comeback tour since his premature retirement two years earlier.

Matfield became the oldest player to represent the Springboks -- at 37 years and 202 days -- and the oldest Springbok captain as well the most capped Springbok player ever, having played 121 Tests, with John Smit his closest rival at 111.

It has been a year of miraculous returns for loose forward stalwarts Juan Smith and Schalk Burger who donned the green and gold once again after they were once thought to be lost to the game.

Burge had recovered from life-threatening bacterial meningitis and made his return to the Springbok starting line-up against Scotland in Port Elizabeth in June for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

After initially retiring from rugby with a chronic Achilles tendon injury and four operations, Smith ran out for the Boks against Argentina in Salta in the second Test of the Rugby Championship.

His comeback proved less successful and indeed it was Burger who showed that he had lost little of his lustre.

While the Springboks seemed to improve in leaps and bounds last year, they were firing hot and cold this year.

They started the season with a comprehensive 38-16 victory over Wales in Durban before nearly suffering their first loss to the Celtic nation on home soil a week later in Nelspruit.

A penalty-try at the death saved their blushes, stealing a 31-30 victory with the Welsh the better side on the day.

The cracks in their armoury were papered over a week later when they steamrolled Scotland 55-6 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

It proved a bittersweet victory as master tactician and scrumhalf Du Preez suffered an ankle injury which would rule him out for the rest of the year.

Although the South Africans started the Rugby Championship on a positive note, with a nervous 13-6 victory over Argentina in Pretoria, the monsoon-like conditions disguised South Africa's inadequacies.

A week later, they survived yet another scare as Morne Steyn's penalty, three minutes from time, stole a 33-31 victory.

Argentina had exposed weaknesses in the Springbok scrums and at the breakdowns, areas which had previously been regarded as strengths.

A late converted try by Rob Horne in Perth gave the Wallabies a 24-23 victory and dealt a blow to the Springboks' hopes of claiming the Rugby Championship title for the first time since 2009.

A week later, the Boks narrowly lost 14-10 to the All Blacks in a Wellington and suffered two more debilitating injuries to flanker Louw and scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar.

Back on home soil, South Africa got back to winning ways, claiming a 28-10 victory in Cape Town in their penultimate Test of the Rugby Championship.

Unlike the previous year where the title was still on the line in the final match against the All Blacks in Johannesburg, the Boks had only a rare victory over their arch-rivals to play for.

Replacement flyhalf Patrick Lambie displayed nerves of steel, slotting a long-range penalty conversion at the death to seal the Boks' first victory over New Zealand since 2011.

While Pollard seemed to cement his place in the side as the first-choice flyhalf, scoring two tries in the Test, Lambie would don the number-10 jersey on the outgoing tour.

Where the Boks had gone unbeaten on the tour of the Northern Hemisphere in the preceding years, this year's edition proved to be a blemish on Meyer's stellar record.

South Africa could not have asked for a worse start to their tour as they succumbed 29-15 to a clinical Ireland side in Dublin.

The touring side managed to bounce back the following week, getting the better of England at Twickenham. While the 31-28 score line suggested a close encounter, the Boks were by far the better side.

Continuing the inconsistent trend, South Africa were made to work hard for their 22-6 victory over Italy in Padova the following week and then, with the final match of the season falling outside of the international Test window, the Boks had to take on the Welsh without the services of some of their key players.

The match proved to be a bridge too far for the South Africans who were suffering from fatigue. A lacklustre performance ended in only their second ever defeat to Wales with a 12-6 loss.

Following two years of steady improvement, the Springboks hit a speed bump this year, showing signs of decline a year out from the Rugby World Cup in England.

The Springboks came into the season on the back of their best year under the tutelage of coach Heyneke Meyer, winning 10 of their 12 matches.

While Meyer managed to get the monkey off his back with a victory against the All Blacks, the Springboks won nine of their 13 games.

A plethora of injuries did not help his cause and Meyer used the opportunity to strengthen his depth in several positions, particularly at flyhalf where Junior Springbok captain Handre Pollard emerged as the heir apparent to the number-10 jersey.

Earning his first Test cap against Scotland only a week after he led the Junior Springboks into the final at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand -- which they lost to England -- Pollard showed maturity which belied his young age of 20.

The most costly blow for the team came in the 12-6 defeat to Wales in Cardiff during their final Test of the year when dynamic captain Jean de Villiers suffered a knee injury.

On his return to South Africa, De Villiers underwent successful surgery on his knee, leaving him in a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup in England next year.

De Villiers' started the international season missing the June incoming series against Wales and Scotland with a knee injury.

In his absence Victor Matfield wore the captain's armband in what was his first comeback tour since his premature retirement two years earlier.

Matfield became the oldest player to represent the Springboks -- at 37 years and 202 days -- and the oldest Springbok captain as well the most capped Springbok player ever, having played 121 Tests, with John Smit his closest rival at 111.

It has been a year of miraculous returns for loose forward stalwarts Juan Smith and Schalk Burger who donned the green and gold once again after they were once thought to be lost to the game.

Burge had recovered from life-threatening bacterial meningitis and made his return to the Springbok starting line-up against Scotland in Port Elizabeth in June for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

After initially retiring from rugby with a chronic Achilles tendon injury and four operations, Smith ran out for the Boks against Argentina in Salta in the second Test of the Rugby Championship.

His comeback proved less successful and indeed it was Burger who showed that he had lost little of his lustre.

While the Springboks seemed to improve in leaps and bounds last year, they were firing hot and cold this year.

They started the season with a comprehensive 38-16 victory over Wales in Durban before nearly suffering their first loss to the Celtic nation on home soil a week later in Nelspruit.

A penalty-try at the death saved their blushes, stealing a 31-30 victory with the Welsh the better side on the day.

The cracks in their armoury were papered over a week later when they steamrolled Scotland 55-6 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

It proved a bittersweet victory as master tactician and scrumhalf Du Preez suffered an ankle injury which would rule him out for the rest of the year.

Although the South Africans started the Rugby Championship on a positive note, with a nervous 13-6 victory over Argentina in Pretoria, the monsoon-like conditions disguised South Africa's inadequacies.

A week later, they survived yet another scare as Morne Steyn's penalty, three minutes from time, stole a 33-31 victory.

Argentina had exposed weaknesses in the Springbok scrums and at the breakdowns, areas which had previously been regarded as strengths.

A late converted try by Rob Horne in Perth gave the Wallabies a 24-23 victory and dealt a blow to the Springboks' hopes of claiming the Rugby Championship title for the first time since 2009.

A week later, the Boks narrowly lost 14-10 to the All Blacks in a Wellington and suffered two more debilitating injuries to flanker Louw and scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar.

Back on home soil, South Africa got back to winning ways, claiming a 28-10 victory in Cape Town in their penultimate Test of the Rugby Championship.

Unlike the previous year where the title was still on the line in the final match against the All Blacks in Johannesburg, the Boks had only a rare victory over their arch-rivals to play for.

Replacement flyhalf Patrick Lambie displayed nerves of steel, slotting a long-range penalty conversion at the death to seal the Boks' first victory over New Zealand since 2011.

While Pollard seemed to cement his place in the side as the first-choice flyhalf, scoring two tries in the Test, Lambie would don the number-10 jersey on the outgoing tour.

Where the Boks had gone unbeaten on the tour of the Northern Hemisphere in the preceding years, this year's edition proved to be a blemish on Meyer's stellar record.

South Africa could not have asked for a worse start to their tour as they succumbed 29-15 to a clinical Ireland side in Dublin.

The touring side managed to bounce back the following week, getting the better of England at Twickenham. While the 31-28 score line suggested a close encounter, the Boks were by far the better side.

Continuing the inconsistent trend, South Africa were made to work hard for their 22-6 victory over Italy in Padova the following week and then, with the final match of the season falling outside of the international Test window, the Boks had to take on the Welsh without the services of some of their key players.

The match proved to be a bridge too far for the South Africans who were suffering from fatigue. A lacklustre performance ended in only their second ever defeat to Wales with a 12-6 loss.


Read more on:    springboks  |  heyneke meyer  |  rugby
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