Jean: We need to get momentum

2015-09-12 10:40
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The Springboks will be looking to build some positive momentum from the outset when they kick-off their Rugby World Cup campaign against Japan in Brighton, England next Saturday.

South African captain Jean de Villiers said the focus going into the World Cup would be to get the tournament off to a good start.

“It is important for us to get some momentum as soon as possible, and we need a good performance against Japan, we need a win against them,” De Villiers said ahead of the squad’s departure on Friday.

“But it is also about getting some momentum going into the competition and making sure we feel comfortable in structures and hopefully individuals like myself who might have lacked some game time will get some game time.”

The team has come under severe criticism following a dismal Rugby Championship campaign that consisted of defeats against Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.

All sorts of critics stepped out of the woodwork with the team’s lack of racial diversity coming under the spotlight, while others complain about players they believe are long in the tooth.

De Villiers said the team banded together despite the criticism they had to endure in the build-up to the global showpiece.

“The vibe within the squad is fantastic, the last couple of weeks was tough from a supporter’s point of view because there was a lot of negative energy that came through but I think that was a small minority that created that,” De Villiers said.

“When you meet a supporter at the shopping centre and you see the vibe this last week then you realise just how special it is to play for the Boks.

“That is at a stage where it is different and it feels as if the whole South Africa is behind us and that just emphasises just how special it is to represent your country and to do it at a World Cup.”

De Villiers said while the team was confident they had done enough in their preparations for the World Cup, the proof of the pudding was in the tasting.

“You can say whatever you want about the preparations before 2007 and 2011 and now,” he said.

“All that matters is what we go out and do, only then we will be able to say our preparation was good enough or it wasn’t.

“Whatever we’ve done before the tournament is important but we’ve got to go out and put up good performances, because that’s what our jobs are.”

The Northern Hemisphere has been a happy hunting ground for the Springboks since Heyneke Meyer took charge in 2012, winning eight out 10 of their matches there.

While the Boks usually go on their end-of-year tour during November in wetter weather, De Villiers did not believe the improved conditions this time of the year would change their approach at the World Cup.

“It doesn’t change our approach at all, whether we play in South Africa or overseas it doesn’t change much either,” he said.

“It is all about the conditions on the day, the opposition and what we want to get out of the game.

“We are happy to play any brand of rugby and it is just about executing what we want to do, putting pressure on the opposition and getting points on the board.”

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