Back from injury, Springbok flanker Juan Smith aims to aid South Africa in attaining the ultimate prize of an away win at Twickenham.
It has been well documented that the Boks have not beaten England in London since 1997. Smith confirmed that this is the primary goal for the three-match tour, which kicks off next Saturday against Ireland at Landsdowne Road.
“No Springbok team has won on English soil for nine years. Everybody in this team is working towards halting that losing streak,” he told Keo.co.za. “To be a part of a side that wins at Twickenham will be incredible.”
Alternative strategies have been tossed around by experts and journalists alike since the UK tour became the focus after the Tri-Nations. Whether coach Jake White’s tactics for these fixtures are correct remains to be seen, but the nature of the contests up north will be vastly different to those seen in the Tri Nations, especially at the breakdown.
When Pedrie Wannenberg was ruled out of the tour, White did not replace the player, which means that only four loose forwards will board the plane for Dublin on the weekend. Smith does not believe that this is a problem.
“Danie Rossouw will be able to cover at loose forward as well as at lock. It will be an intensely physical battle in all three games, but we are not unprepared.
“Jake will probably look to play the guys who are more suited to these type of games. The more physical players like Johan Ackermann will probably feature in what should be a bigger pack.”
Speaking of his Irish and English counterparts in the back row, Smith was non-committal in isolating any particular danger men who the Boks need to keep an eye on.
“When you reach this level, all loose forwards are the same,” he said. “Obviously there will always be standouts like [All Blacks captain] Richie McCaw who you need to plan for.
“Our preparations for this tour have been much the same as they were for the Tri-Nations, but without focusing on individual players. The tactics will also change slightly to accomodate the northern hemisphere conditions. In the Tri-Nations we played a lot wider, whereas in the UK we will stay much closer to the point of breakdown.”
After last appearing for the Boks against Australia in Sydney, the Cheetahs blindside is keen to re-establish a permanent spot in the side. This tour is important not just in terms of breaking the Twickenham hoodoo, but for development ahead of next year’s World Cup as well.
“I began this year with the aim to play all 12 matches for the Springboks, but my injuries did not allow me to achieve this goal. I now hope to get through all three matches on tour. It’s important for my confidence as we build up to France next year.
“Another crucial goal for this tour will be the nuturing of the youngsters who have been selected. Guys like myself and CJ van der Linde are seen as senior players, which is a bit weird, but we have a responsibility to help young guys like Pierre Spies. These matches will also give them confidence and experience ahead of the World Cup.
“Winning all three games is our aim, but we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture.”
By Jon Cardinelli