The Springboks arrived in a chilly Johannesburg on Sunday 1-0 up against England and utility back Pat Lambie didn’t waste any time in declaring the Boks a “relieved” bunch.
Under new coach Heyneke Meyer, the Boks kicked off the three-Test series with a 22-17 win against England in Durban on Saturday and while it was a far from convincing performance there was enough shown to suggest that with more time the Boks under Meyer could become a real force in the game.
The first half effort was particularly disappointing but that was perhaps to be expected considering so much has changed in the Bok set-up this season. Also, Meyer and his coaching team have had precious little time to prepare the squad ahead of the series.
Lambie, who added some much needed spark to the backs when he entered the fray on Saturday, said on Sunday there was a sense of relief in the squad.
“I think everyone is quite relieved (the first one is out the way). There were a lot of nerves yesterday (Saturday), with new faces in the team and a whole new situation with regards the management. The fact the first one is behind us and we managed to get a win under the belt is good.
“When we got up this morning (yesterday) I got the feeling everyone was relaxed. This week will be better for everyone ... every squad member has now experienced a build up to a Test. There was a lot of information to take in last week and there was a lot on everyone’s minds, but now we can work on the things that need attention. There’s also more time for us to focus ... and there will be more comfort in the environment we’re in.”
The Boks should, indeed, be better off in the lead up to Saturday’s second Test at Coca-Cola Park. They now know what they need to fix from last Saturday, but one area they won’t be too concerned about is the scrumming. The Boks were the dominant team in the scrums and loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira was full of praise for scrumming coach Pieter de Villiers – the former French Test prop.
“He was a great scrummager in his time. He’s very knowledgeable and is probably the best guy to have around, to learn from,” said Mtawarira. The Beast, though, feels there is still more to come from the Bok front row.
“The scrums were good, but it’s a work in progress. What we did on Saturday will give us a lot of confidence, especially with so many new faces in the pack. The fact we were able to gel so well and so quickly is encouraging and important ... but it’s going to be tougher this weekend so we’re going to have to work harder,” he said.
Added Lambie: “It’s always great when the pack lay a good foundation. It was good to get this so-called new era off to a winning start ... it’s a performance we can build on. And that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do ... we know England will come back strongly this week.”
Lambie could find himself in the starting team on Saturday following a knee injury suffered by Zane Kirchner on Saturday, while other Boks nursing bumps, bruises and cuts are Jannie du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana. – The Star