Pretoria – Bok coach Heyneke Meyer made a point of praising his young players as he looked for positives after a scrappy 13-6 home win over Argentina in their opening Rugby Championship match on Saturday.
“We had a 20-year-old (Handre Pollard) running play at flyhalf and a 21-year-old (Lood de Jager) calling the lineouts and they did very well,” said the Springbok coach.
His side got off to a far from impressive start in the annual four-nation southern hemisphere competition as lashing rain made any chance of an exciting contest at Loftus Versfeld impossible.
“The new combinations worked well for us. The new guys showed the character I expected from them. A lot of the guys are 23 years and younger,” he told a news conference.
Meyer said he wanted his side to play a more flowing game, but Argentina and the inclement weather made it difficult.
“They are not a continuity team, they are a contesting team, so it’s not always easy to get a flow to your match,” added Meyer of their feisty South American opponents.
“We played well for 30 minutes, but we did not get the points to justify that and it affected us, as we had our mind set on attacking play.
“Their kicking game was better than ours tonight, but luckily Willie (le Roux) was excellent.”
South Africa’s fullback caught some crucial high balls and launched several attempted counter attacks, living up to his reputation as one of the more exciting players in world rugby.
Saturday’s win puts South Africa top of the standings after the first round of the southern hemisphere competition. Australia held New Zealand 12-12 earlier on Saturday to deny the All Blacks a world record 18-match winning streak.
FRAME OF MIND
“The result in Sydney had no impact on our frame of mind or style of play,” Meyer said.
“We want to win all our matches, because then we will be good for winning the championship. Don’t read too much into this (Sydney) match.
“I will be happy to keep on winning, even if it is by one point in every match. That is what rugby is all about,” he added.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers blamed the conditions - persistent rain, heavy underfoot conditions and the occasional hail – for an unimpressive showing from his side.
“Our execution was poor tonight. We did not expect these conditions, so adapted as best we could. We were looking for five points, but the fact that we got four is still very pleasing.”
“We could not play the brand (of rugby) we wanted to. We have five matches left to do it. Now we must regroup and do it in Salta (against Argentina again next Saturday).
An injury suffered by first-choice loose forward Willem Alberts before Saturday’s game has also ruled him out of the return with Golden Lions captain Warren Whiteley called up as replacement, the South Africa Rugby Union said.
Flanker Alberts pulled a hamstring in the captain’s run on Friday and failed a fitness test on Saturday.
He was replaced in the starting XV by Marcell Coetzee whose place on the bench was taken by Teboho Mohoje.
The 26-year-old Whiteley was a member of South Africa’s Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning sevens squad in Glasgow earlier this month. – Reuters