Springbok captain Jean de Villiers believes his team will be buoyed after getting their Rugby Championship off to a wet and rocky start with an unconvincing 13-6 win over Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
While the rain would have wreaked havoc with the Springboks’ game plan of running and flowing rugby, it was the poor execution that had De Villiers worried as his team took off for Argentina last night.
As the promise of an expansive game was washed away by the uncharacteristic winter rain in the Highveld, it left the Springboks exposed to the reality that they are still a long way from reaching those lofty heights De Villiers is hoping his team achieve in this year’s Rugby Championship campaign.
There can be no running away from the fact that Argentina have grown in leaps and bounds and continue to evolve into a formidable outfit. But the Springboks can easily be their own worst enemies at times by their failure to affirm their superiority over the Pumas by their inability to seize their opportunities.
Their failure to simplify the game and overcome the challenge of playing with a slippery ball would have played a hand in the poor execution and these are areas of the game De Villiers is hoping his team can iron out during their training sessions in Buenos Aires this week.
“Things do change because of the conditions and, yes, our execution was poor,” said De Villiers.
“It’s the kind of situations we have to get used to because we will face it again in the future but we got through it nicely.
“That’s a positive. (Today) we will be starting all over again and the goals will be different for Saturday’s game. But the motivation will be there and I’m happy we got the win and our campaign is off to a positive start,” said De Villiers.
The fact that his team were able to overcome the Pumas courtesy of that early try from Ruan Pienaar and the tenacious defence at the death to prevent the Argentinians scoring a converted try for the draw, are traits De Villiers believes will stand his team in good stead when they’re faced with similar conditions.
De Villiers was particularly impressed with the youngsters in his team – lock Lood de Jager, flyhalf Handré Pollard and centre Damian de Allende, all of whom kept on fighting against the elements and an unrelenting opposition.
“I thought those youngsters were the decision makers and leaders. Yes it was tough conditions, but they came through it very nicely.
“It will only make them better the next time we are in that position. It’s great to get the win and, unfortunately, we couldn’t play the brand of rugby we wanted to. But there are still five games left in the competition for us and it is just being able to refocus for next week and put up a good showing again,” De Villiers said.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer also believes overcoming the conditions and stubborn opponents on Saturday will be a welcome piece of ammunition in the Springboks’ weaponry for the remainder of the competition, with an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Meyer has already shut the door on what didn’t work on Saturday and is looking at building on what worked and his team’s strengths ahead of this week’s Test in Salta.
“It is difficult to have an arm-wrestle when the ball is so wet. You have to have the ball in hand to start building something but it was so wet we couldn’t get going. I knew when the rain came pelting down it would be 50-50. Although they play in Argentina and it is also dry, 70percent of their players also play in Europe so they are used to such conditions. They have big, strong forwards and they like to slow down a game. They are not a continuity team, they are more of a contesting team. Both teams showed a lot of character,” said Meyer. - The Star