Heyneke Meyer says he loved every one of the six tries scored against the World XV, but the Springbok coach is worried about the penalties conceded in the scrums ahead of Saturday’s first Test against Wales in Durban.
The Boks were pushed backwards by the powerful World XV unit of Sona Taumalolo, Craig Burden and Carl Hayman at Newlands on Saturday night, but the Boks’ all-Sharks front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and his older brother Jannie will have to soldier on at Kings Park against the Welsh.
The trio have played almost non-stop rugby as the Sharks worked their way to the top of the Super Rugby log, but had already looked off-colour in their last league match against the Stormers on May 31.
Meyer decided to stick with experience in the non-cap international instead of giving other contenders such as Bulls tighthead Marcel van der Merwe, Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen and Saracens hooker Schalk Brits a start in Cape Town, and it may have been to the Boks’ detriment.
A few days off last week may just have done the trick for Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers to recharge their batteries, but now they will have to face up to another formidable Welsh front row – an all-British and Irish Lions combination of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones.
Asked if he was worried about the number of scrum penalties conceded in the first half in the 47-13 win at Newlands, Meyer said: “Yes, definitely. Last year we had the best scrum in the world, and it’s not that I’m saying it – the stats prove that. A lot of the guys haven’t played together, and I thought in the second half it went better. But that is why you need this type of game. If you think we just had three training sessions, and it went better in the second half.
“I was happy with the impact guys coming on and they also scrummed well. I was very happy with the line-outs, I thought they were awesome for a first game.”
Meyer was also unhappy about the lack of intensity and urgency from the Boks in the first half as the World XV’s big men such as Taumalolo, Burden, flank Steffon Armitage and No8 Roger Wilson carried the ball strongly and were physical in the tackle.
“There were harsh words at halftime because of the penalties. In Super Rugby, especially with southern-hemisphere referees – I’m not criticising the referees, it’s just the way the game evolves – you always get quick ball and you are always on the front foot because the referees are very strict on the tackler not rolling away and hands-in,” the coach said.
“I was frustrated that sometimes we didn’t get quick ball – I think we are an awesome team if we get quick ball. There were unnecessary penalties and it’s not good enough, and we will definitely talk hard about that.
“Although we scored six tries, which I am very happy about, I think we can be devastating if we get quick ball. It’s a new 12, 13 and wing and you don’t get that (cohesion) overnight. We didn’t get a lot of quick ball but once we did, we showed, with Willie (le Roux) at fullback, we are very dangerous.”
The highlight of the performance was the set move from a line-out where Bryan Habana broke down the line from a Le Roux pass, and some smart interplay between Habana and Matfield saw Bakkies Botha slide over for a superb touchdown.
“I loved every single try! I was very happy with the one try where we came blind as it’s a set move and we’ve worked on that,” Meyer said. “I thought every try was special. We want to score tries and I am very happy that we could execute and score a few.”
So the backs will have some confidence going into the Welsh Test series, although they will have to deal with some serious game-breakers such as scrumhalf Mike Phillips, flyhalf James Hook, powerful centre Jamie Roberts and big wing George North.
Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar struggled to clear quickly from the base at Newlands, but he could get another chance to start in Durban as Fourie du Preez is still making his way back to full match fitness.
The Bok management announced yesterday that Flip van der Merwe will sit out the first Wales Test as he is attending his brother’s wedding this weekend while Cheetahs prop Trevor Nyakane was added to the Bok squad. - The Star