Auckland – The Springboks are ready for war as they prepare to end the All Blacks’ reign at Eden Park in the most daunting invasion of Heyneke Meyer’s international coaching career.
“This is the toughest one I’ve had,” the Bok coach told reporters yesterday. “They know we’re in form and can win away from home, so they will be very well prepared, and they always lift themselves to play the Boks.
“We’ll need to bring a lot of energy and I want the guys fresh out there because it’ll be a war.”
In Brisbane last week, South Africa broke their duck at the Suncorp Stadium and clinched their first win in the Queensland metropolis since 1971.
With that result, they effectively ensured that 2013 will go down as a success – the Boks are at the halfway mark of the season and, with six matches remaining this year, they cannot finish with a losing record.
But don’t expect any of Meyer’s players to be grinning and waving at the nearest camera when they get off the team bus – they’re in town to beat the world champions, not to make up the numbers.
It goes without saying that the Boks always want to beat their biggest rivals, but they seldom face the All Blacks without the pressure of desperately needing a win.
“Probably a lesser team will have settled for two (away) wins out of three and feeling like they’ve achieved their goal,” Meyer said, referring to Rugby Championship wins in Mendoza and then Brisbane.
“We want to win every single game out there for our country, especially against the All Blacks, and that’s how we see it.”
It’s one thing for the Boks to be thinking that, but quite another for the coach to come out and say it, especially given South Africa’s dismal record in New Zealand – nine wins from 39 matches and none at Eden Park since 1937.
Meyer wants his players to run towards challenges and not away from fear. In being up front about his objectives, he is walking the walk.
“We’re not trying to be arrogant, we know it’ll be tough and no-one probably gives us a chance, but we like to be in that position. We know we’ll have to be very clinical and really focused because they’re the type of side where, if you make a mistake or there’s a soft moment, there’s two tries against you.”
Mentally and physically, the Boks are in a better space to avoid soft moments. The players have recovered from the jetlag of the flight to Brisbane, and team doctor Craig Roberts was pleased to announce that, aside from a few bumps and bruises, the team is injury-free.
The Boks are physically in good nick and, psychologically, on-the-road wins against Argentina and then Australia have boosted confidence levels significantly.
“Beating England by one point at the end of last year really helped the guys to start believing (that they could win away from home) and now we’ve won nine on the trot, and five of those were tough away games,” added Meyer.
“Our mindset is right. We didn’t have big celebrations after the win in Australia. Last week I had to convince the guys that it’s possible to win away from home, where you haven’t won for ages. This week, they believe that.
“This is the ultimate challenge. We’ve travelled a lot, the odds are against us, but the guys are really focused.”
Meanwhile, All Blacks centre Conrad Smith is confident that replacement loose forward Sam Cane is an adequate replacement for the injured Richie McCaw.
“Richie is obviously a pretty important part of the team,” Smith told reporters in a media huddle at the team hotel yesterday. “But we can take some comfort from the fact that we dealt with it earlier this year and we won some games without him, so we learnt to live without him.”
P W D L PF PA B P
South Africa 3 3 0 0 133 42 2 14
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 102 58 1 13
Argentina 3 0 0 3 43 123 1 1
Australia 3 0 0 3 57 112 0 0
Saturday. Auckland: New Zealand v South Africa (9.35am), Perth: Australia v Argentina (12.05pm).
Saturday, September 28. Newlands: South Africa v Australia (5pm).
Sunday, September 29. La Plata: Argentina v New Zealand (12.40am).
Saturday, October 5. Ellis Park: South Africa v New Zealand (5pm).
Sunday, October 6. Rosario: Argentina v Australia (12.40am).