Mendoza, Argentina – Such has been the length of time – four years, to be exact – since the Springboks last won an away match in the Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship that Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was left shocked when that fact was disclosed to him on Friday
While it was never going to be part of his pre-match talk to his team ahead of Saturday night’s clash with Argentina (9.10pm SA time), De Villiers will in all likelihood use this painful piece of Bok history to inspire his troops.
The Boks’ last away win in the southern hemisphere competition, in 2009 in Hamilton against the All Blacks, was ironically the last time they were crowned champions.
It may be a coincidence that the Boks stand a realistic chance of winning the title again this year after an emphatic start last week, but they will have to do it in the very same stadium where they were held to a lucky 16-all draw by the Pumas last year.
“Four years… that’s true. We need to win away from home. We have done well in the end-of-year tours but we need to be winning constantly away from home in this competition,” said De Villiers on Friday. “So that is one of the goals… we weren’t happy with the performance of last year and we need to make that right.
“We have to improve with that. And the fact that we haven’t won (away) since 2009. There was a time where we were doing it on a constant basis and we have gone through a slump in the last four years. That is part of the team going to the next level and evolving.”
The Boks will need to take a chapter out of their showing last week when they annihilated the Pumas in every facet of the game.
However, De Villiers cited his unhappiness at the manner in which his team started that game and that it would be important to stamp their authority on today’s game much earlier if they are not only to subdue the Pumas but silence the boisterous and intimidating crowd at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.
“I’m still not happy with the way it went in the first 10 to 15 minutes in that game. To really stake a claim in this competition and to have a dominant performance, I think we need to start well and better than last week.
“They’ll be passionate. Their supporters will come out and they will want to see a different result. For us it is focusing on what we got right last week and hopefully doing it again.
“Once you hit the field and start off a game well and dominate the first couple of minutes, then it is easy to get rid of the intimidating factor of the crowd. But once the home team get on top, then the crowd can get into it and then it becomes dangerous territory.”
While it will be near impossible for the Pumas to reverse the 73-13 drubbing of last week without the influential figures of Juan Martin Hernandez, Patricio Albacete and Juan Martin Lobbe, there is a growing feeling among Puma fans that Saturday’s game will just be a matter of damage control.
“It’s tough to get back from something like that,” said De Villiers.
“There are two ways to handle it: Either you accept defeat or you try and turn it around. We definitely hope that they will choose the first option and our job is to go out and try and enforce that. But it is Test match rugby and days like that (last week) don’t come around very often.”