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Jacques van der Westhuyzen
THE Springboks arrived in a chilly Joburg yesterday afternoon 1-0 up against England and utility back Pat Lambie didn’t waste any time in declaring the Boks a “relieved” bunch.
Under new coach Heyneke Meyer, the Boks kicked off the three-Test series with a 22-17 win against England in Durban on Saturday and while it was a far from convincing performance there was enough shown to suggest that with more time the Boks, under Meyer, could become a real force in the game.
The first-half effort was particularly disappointing, but that was perhaps to be expected considering so much has changed in the Bok set-up this season while Meyer and his coaching team have had precious little time to prepare the squad.
Lambie, who added some much-needed spark to the backs when he entered the fray on Saturday, said there was a sense of relief in the squad.
“I think everyone is quite relieved the first one is out of the way. There were a lot of nerves, with new faces and a whole new situation with regards the management. The fact the first one is behind us and we managed to get a win under the belt is good.
“This week will be better for everyone. Every squad member has now experienced a build-up to a Test. There was a lot of information to take in last week and there was a lot on everyone’s minds, but now we can work on the things that need attention. There’s also more time for us to focus.”
The Boks were the dominant team in the scrums on Saturday and loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira was full of praise for scrumming coach Pieter de Villiers, a former France prop.
“Pieter was a great scrummager in his time, is very knowledgeable and is probably the best guy to have around, to learn from,” said Mtawarira.
The “Beast” feels though that there is still more to come from the Bok front row.
“The scrums were good, but it’s a work in progress. What we did on Saturday will give us a lot of confidence, especially with so many new faces in the pack. The fact we were able to gel so well and so quickly is encouraging, but it’s going to be tougher this weekend.
Most pundits believe Durban was England’s best chance of victory in the series – the second Test is at altitude in Joburg and the Boks’ limited preparation time will no longer be a factor while England take a detour to Kimberley to face a Barbarians team on Wednesday in a mid-week fixture.
For more, see Pages 38 & 39