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Heyneke Meyer says there won’t be many, if any, changes to the team for this Saturday’s second Test against England in Johannesburg as they look to improve on their winning performance from the opening encounter at the weekend.
The Bok coach said he had been particularly pleased by their dominant second half display on Saturday night.
“We knew England would be well prepared, they are a very physical side. They came out firing, and there were some nerves for us with a new captain and a few new caps.
“But I’m really happy with the guys, we stuck to our guns and Jean (de Villiers) has done really well as captain. We played really good rugby in the second half, although we could have finished off one or two more tries.
“The defence was outstanding from both sides, I was also happy with the scrummaging and I’m just glad to get through the first one. We’ve got high standards, though, so obviously we’ll want to improve on this.
“England are a quality side, so I’m sure both teams will get better,” he continued. “The difficulty for us was establishing and executing a new game-plan with not a lot of time to prepare as a team.
“There were some things I wasn’t entirely happy with, especially in the first half, but I was satisfied with how we played when we got quality quick ball. I think we can be a dangerous side, and it’s just the first step in the journey.
“Both teams will study each other and I expect the second Test to be much tougher. Luckily the nerves are gone now, the guys put up their hands and the next one will be an unbelievable Test match. It will be up on the Highveld and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Meyer added that it would be important to maintain continuity in selection, although there will be further clarity today on the injury sustained by Zane Kirchner that forced him to be replaced at half-time.
“I’ve said to the players I don’t believe in just giving out jerseys, you have to earn your chance in this team. So I’ll stick with the same side because we don’t have a lot of time together.
“There’s just two more Test matches, and then it’s back to Super Rugby before the Rugby Championship. So obviously I want these guys to get used to the game-plan together,” Meyer added.
“A lot of the players in the team are new to Test rugby so I want them to gain more confidence and experience.”
With the scores level at 6-6 at half-time, Meyer said he was pleased by the manner in which the players responded after a few strong words at the break.
“I’m very emotional and sometimes I can lose it, but I must say Jean was brilliant at half-time. I just said to the forwards that it wasn’t good enough and we really had to get stuck in, we needed to up the tempo and get better cleans and for our ball-carriers to get into the game.
“We didn’t get quality ball from the breakdown in the first half, but it was much better in the second half,” Meyer elaborated.
“We’ll improve in a number of departments as we have more time to prepare as a team, but I was really proud to see how the guys really put their bodies on the line and I thought we played some very good rugby at times.”
It was a sentiment echoed by De Villiers, who sported a black eye and a few stitches as testament to the physicality of the first encounter.
“It was typical Test match rugby. I think every single guy will be sore. We’ve got a lot to work on, while from the English point of view no team is ever happy to lose and I’m sure they’ll come back even better in the next Test.
“The breakdown does require a bit of work,” he said.
“England were a bit quicker to the breakdown, especially in the first half. I thought our set-pieces were good, but we made some silly mistakes on attack. So we’ll look to clean up those unforced errors and be more clinical.”