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Johannesburg – Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has jumped to the defence of his coach Heyneke Meyer who, after a difficult few weeks, has come under increasing pressure regarding his selections and game-plan.
The Boks and Meyer have had to endure plenty of heat since their 16-all draw against Argentina in Mendoza, with former coach Jake White weighing in with his opinion on why the Boks battled against Argentina.
But on Thursday, when the 28-man Bok squad for the Rugby Championship Tests against Australia and New Zealand got together in Soweto, De Villiers said the Boks “don’t feel like that”, referring to the allegation that Meyer is dictatorial.
“It’s an opinion and we don’t feel like that. What we’ve got is a new coach who’s trying to get his message across to the team, the right game plan that fits for the team. We believe in the coach and we also know that we have the freedom to voice our opinion if we want to.”
De Villiers, who has played Test rugby for 10 years and experienced all the highs and lows associated with professional sport, added the criticism of the Boks and some of the individuals is no different to what he’s had to endure before. “With every team, once you don’t live up to expectations there will be criticism ... what’s important is the way you handle it.
“We’re all adults here and there are times when we have to be honest with each other. We’ll take this (the draw in Mendoza last weekend and the subsequent criticism) on the chin.
“There will be some people we’ll listen to who can add value and there are others who we won’t listen to.
“It’s also important that we continue to believe in what we’re doing and want to achieve.”
The Boks trained in front of a few hundred fans at the Orlando Stadium on Thursday afternoon, with Adriaan Strauss opting to sit on the sidelines. He’s nursing a sore knee and was pulled out of the session as a precaution. The only other absentee was Francois Louw who is still in Bath in England. He plays a game this weekend before joining the Boks in Perth early next week.
“I missed out when the Stormers played the Bulls here in 2010 so this was my first experience of Soweto,” De Villiers said. “It was great and important to give something back to the fans here. Without them there is no Bok team.”
The captain added that his side had put the disappointment of Mendoza behind them and were looking to make a big step up against Australia next weekend.
The Boks depart on Saturday evening for Perth.
“We’re a better team than the one that played in Mendoza. There were some positives that came out of that game, like our attack, but we certainly need to protect the ball better.
“We also need to work on getting the balance right between kicking and keeping ball in hand.
“We believe we’re a better team than what we’ve produced, but so will the Aussies believe that about themselves.
“We’ve got an opportunity now to step it up, as individuals and as a team. Our discipline and execution must improve and I’d like our set pieces to be up there again; they went backwards last week. Overall, a 40 per cent improvement in our game is needed to be in a position to beat Australia.
“There are small margins in rugby, little details make a big difference. Had a few kicks gone over in Mendoza we wouldn’t be in a crisis ... not that we see our situation as a crisis.” – The Star