Johannesburg - A super-fit team that will look to pick up a bonus point every time they run on to the field. That’s what Springbok boss Heyneke Meyer has targeted for this year’s Rugby Championship.
Just a year before the 2015 World Cup, Meyer enters his third Rugby Championship next weekend against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld - set on winning every game and finally bagging the title as champions of the southern hemisphere. But, to achieve this, Meyer says his team will not only have to out-muscle their opponents, but out-think them as well.
And that means only one thing - the Boks will play aggressive, attack-minded rugby and look to score four tries in every match, or, at worst, pick up losing bonus points.
“We scored the most tries in the world last year and also scored a number during the June Tests. So, in that respect, we got one thing right. I’ve always said this team wants to score tries and that’ll be the case again this year.
“I believe it’s going to be the toughest Rugby Championship yet and it’s probably going to go down to bonus points. We need to fire from the start, from the first game.”
The Boks have struggled in Argentina in the last two years and in 2013 they failed to pick up a losing bonus point against the All Blacks in New Zealand and also failed to bag an extra point in downing the Wallabies in South Africa.
“We always face a tough draw and if we don’t get bonus points early on we’ll put ourselves under pressure in our last two home games, having to win with bonus points to bag the title, as happened last year (against the All Blacks at Ellis Park).”
Meyer said his players would have to be in top shape if they’re to challenge for the title - a competition he said would be more competitive than last year.
“Conditioning-wise we’re probably ahead. A lot of the guys have had a few weeks off, so they look fresh and in peak condition. The Sharks though haven’t had as much time off.
“We’re going to have to work hard in the next two weeks and to be No1 we’re going to have to do a lot of improving. The thing is when fatigue sets in then the skills go, the defence goes. Nowadays the ball is in play for much longer than before,it’s quick, open running rugby, at a high tempo.
“All the teams have big, powerful players now so you can’t out-muscle anyone anymore. You need to out-think them… be physical and skilful, and then you can outplay them.”
Meyer believes his side will face far stiffer competition this year than was the case last season when it became a two-horse race almost before the Rugby Championship kicked off. “This will be the toughest year for me and the team… the third year always is.
“Australia had a lot of injuries last season, while this year they’ve hit form again. They had two teams in the Super Rugby play-offs and won the title last weekend… they’ll be full of confidence. Their coach Ewen McKenzie has also changed their game plan from the first year when they tried to run everything and conceded a lot of turn-overs. Their nine and 10 also kick very well tactically.
“As for New Zealand, they’re always tough, and Argentina have been in camp, preparing, for a month now. They’ve also got a new coach. As for us, we’ve lost a lot of continuity since June, with players out injured and not available, while others have come into the squad after long injury layoffs.”
* All 29 members of the squad (bar Schalk Brits who joins on Tuesday from Saracens) trained on Monday, with an update on the fitness of Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth and Tendai Mtawarira expected on Tuesday.