A great Springbok side would have buried the Wallabies in the second half at Newlands on Saturday. But as captain Jean de Villiers and coach Heyneke Meyer have consistently pointed out, the current team are still growing.
But, after a promising 2013 season, perhaps the time is right for this Bok squad to put together the complete 80-minute performance. And what better occasion to do it than this weekend when the All Blacks visit Ellis Park.
Meyer’s team have been brilliant at times during this year’s internationals – the match against Samoa at Loftus, the FNB Stadium annihilation of Argentina, the second half against the Wallabies in Brisbane and the first half against the same opponents last weekend in Cape Town.
But there have also been less satisfying performances. Scotland and Italy tested the Boks when they really shouldn’t have, while Meyer’s team also battled in Mendoza and last weekend’s second half saw the Boks score just five points against a desperately-poor Australia side.
While the Boks’ results this year have been pleasing, at no stage have De Villiers or Meyer spoken about the Boks being the finished article, or even close to it. They’re fully aware there is a way to go before they can stand alongside the All Blacks and know they’re playing rugby at the same level.
But if there’s been a lot of good to come out of the current season and a little bad, in this weekend’s final Test of the Rugby Championship we can hope the Boks put together a total performance.
It’s a match in which the Boks must win, with four tries, and deny the All Blacks a bonus point to take the title, and while it won’t be easy, there’s no reason why Meyer’s men can’t do the business.
The All Blacks don’t like Ellis Park, simple, while the Boks would say it’s their favourite ground. Also, are the current All Blacks really that great? I don’t think so.
Sure, with turn-over ball they’re deadly, but like all teams, if they’re put under pressure up-front, they’re forced to think differently about their game and that’s when they become vulnerable. And, the Boks have the players and game to do just that.
The key this weekend, as so many pundits have already said, is to keep 15 players on the field for the full 80 minutes. The Boks are their own worst enemies right now because of ill-discipline, but if that’s sorted out on Saturday we should get a pretty good idea of just how strong the All Blacks are and just how far the Boks have come under Meyer.
It’s all set up to be a cracker. I’ve been hugely encouraged by what I’ve seen of the Boks this year, but they need to beat the All Blacks on Saturday to win over the doubters. - The Star