Auckland - The Springboks won’t be feeling very lucky after Eben Etzebeth’s two-week suspension on Monday, but coach Heyneke Meyer says luck is just what the team needs to beat the All Blacks on Saturday.
Etzebeth was banned for his head-butt on Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe. Both tighthead props Jannie du Plessis (hamstring) and Pat Cilliers (elbow) are injury doubts for Dunedin.
At least wing Bryan Habana, who twisted his ankle in the dispiriting loss to Australia, is likely to be ready to play this weekend.
But it’s the best team in the world up next, and Meyer said yesterday that the All Blacks provided the biggest test in the sport.
“I will be honest and say that it’s tough, being the third away game. It doesn’t get any easier, but you want to compare and measure yourself against the best. I felt that we went close in Perth. With 13 minutes left, we were still tied,” he said.
“We don’t win away from home that often - we haven’t beaten Australia away for quite some time.
“It’s a disappointment, but it’s great being in New Zealand. This is a rugby nation, and we want to measure ourselves against the best in the world.
“This is the ultimate challenge, and we went through the video and put it behind us. We know that it’s going to be a hell of a challenge on Saturday.
“I thought that there was a huge improvement against Australia, in all areas. The breakdowns were better, we only missed one lineout at the end when Tiaan (Liebenberg) came on. Our defence was much better. But to be fair, if you want to win away from home, especially in New Zealand, you need a bit of luck as well.
“I looked at all of our wins over the years, and there was some sort of luck involved. That has been the case, I would say, for the last 100 years.”
Having let slip a 10-point lead, the Boks may feel demoralised about losing a match that they should have won, and Meyer - aware of the danger - has insisted that the players need to work on their mental toughness. He believes that was the biggest problem as the Boks allowed the Wallabies back into the game in the second half.
“We’ve been together for six Tests and have improved,” he said. “The only bad thing in our game still is the soft moments that cost us the game.
“We can’t afford that against New Zealand, and, if we have to chase, they put teams away by 20 or 30 points,” he said. “It’s also a mindset. We have to have the right mindset there, go there and believe we can win.
“If you go there with a negative mindset and just want to keep the score down, that’s against my principles. You will never grow as a team if you just want to keep the score down. We will go out there and try to play positive (rugby).
“Test match rugby is not about who is playing the right game plan or the best rugby - it’s about who can handle the pressure.”