The Springboks need to mentally “toughen up”. This was the strong message from coach Heyneke Meyer as the team prepare to face Argentina in their first-ever Test in Mendoza this Saturday.
Although the Pumas will only arrive in Mendoza tomorrow – a region famous for its wine production – the Boks have settled in since Monday, with their training taking place at the Chacras Rugby Club on the outskirts of the city, which lies not far from some of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains.
The Boks have been warmly received by the people of Mendoza, with more than 1000 locals turning up to watch their first training session, but Meyer temporarily put pleasantries aside as he looked ahead to Saturday’s all-important encounter.
“I’ve been repeating myself, but I want the players to be more mentally tough. Without disrespect to the previous coaches, we need to toughen up in that regard. It will be an honour for us to play here in Mendoza and we just need to step up wherever we play, but I really want the guys to be more mentally tough and perform at any time and place in the world. That’s what we’re concentrating on.”
Meyer repeated his mantra of “no excuses” when asked by a member of the travelling South African media about the expected difference of playing Argentina at home compared to last Saturday’s opening encounter in Cape Town.
“It’s my first away game for the Boks, so that in itself is a big challenge. We have three in a row now away from home. It’s always difficult playing away, but I really want to get mental toughness into the side.
“Argentina will be very passionate, particularly at home, where they’ve proven over the last few years that they are very difficult to beat. Especially playing here in Mendoza where they are taking the game to the people, it will be much more of a challenge for us. We weren’t all that happy with our performance last weekend and we know we are in for a massive game.”
With the Bok team announcement set to be made this evening (5.30pm SA time), a decision will need to be made on the availability of Bryan Habana and Andries Bekker, both of whom went over on their ankle last Saturday.
Meyer said that a new-look pack would need to continue fronting up one way or another.
“I’ve said we want to be a team that doesn’t make excuses but, to put things into perspective, if you look at last year’s World Cup starting front row, there’s only Jannie du Plessis available at the moment. Three locks have left or retired since then as well, and six loose-forwards are injured, so it’s a completely new pack. We’ve lost Pierre (Spies) and Bismarck (du Plessis) to injury, so it’s a very inexperienced pack going up against Argentina, who have always proven themselves to be a formidable unit up front.”