Boks affected by World Cup fever
22 Jun 2010
Peter de Villiers said he made a few mistakes before the Witbank Test, while the soccer World Cup caused the Boks to lose focus.
On Saturday, De Villiers and captain on the day Victor Matfield said they hadn’t been affected by a lackadaisical approach in the build-up to the Test, which saw ‘schoolboy errors’ – as the coach put it – litter their performance. Nick Mallett felt otherwise and said the Boks would always find it difficult to be up for a Test against the European minnows.
De Villiers has since changed his view and said they let a few bad habits creep into their preparation. The Boks travelled to Pretoria on Wednesday night to watch Bafana Bafana lose 3-0 to Uruguay, and while De Villiers said it was part of nation-building, it wasn’t something the players were accustomed to.
‘We drove over 100km to watch the soccer and were still on the road at 1am. It’s not something we normally do in a Test week. It’s important we make a contribution to out country, but maybe we could’ve done it differently,’ said De Villiers.
‘Maybe I made a few mistakes before the game, I can’t just look outside. We’ve got to minimise those mistakes.’
The Boks are now in East London, and can’t say they’ve been hit with soccer fever. Yes, the local public are interested in the event, but the nearest World Cup host city is 300km away in Port Elizabeth.
De Villiers wasn’t complimentary of his side’s performance, and said they would remain focused this week without any sideshows.
‘It’s very important we stick to our routines. Some of the new guys who are having their first chance with the Boks may have noticed all the distractions and got a false impression of what Bok rugby is about. We can’t let that happen again.’
John Smit and Schalk Burger still have to prove their fitness and De Villiers is expected to name his side on Tuesday or Thursday, with not as many first-choice players rested as first thought. Only Victor Matfield isn’t in the 24-man group, while De Villiers is expected to name a few players out of position.
Jean de Villiers ran at wing on Monday, and if that is the case he wouldn’t have had a decent run at No 12 before the Tri-Nations begins. Coach De Villiers didn’t confirm the move but explained his reasoning.
‘We all know Jean. I’ll repeat what I’ve said – what we didn’t have last year was the luxury to select and choose players, we had to take players. Last year we had about 20 guys, with a clear distinction between the better ones and not-so-good ones. This year we analysed the opposition, and looked to see what our players can bring to the team.
‘With all the changes we’ve made in the last three weeks, everyone has been on a par.’
De Villiers said he has pretty much sorted out the 26 players who will tour for the overseas leg of the Tri-Nations, which begins on 10 July. The squad may be announced as early as Saturday evening, depending on the medical situation after the Test. Otherwise, it will be released early next week.
‘You always have to experiment. If not with different players, then with the way you play. Otherwise the other rugby nations will catch up with us.
‘This is the last of four weeks of preparation and I’m 75% sure of who will go on the tour.’
By Grant Ball, in East London