Boks deny mental scarring

Gurthro Steenkamp doesn’t believe two home losses will cause self doubt in the Springbok squad ahead of the World Cup.

After a Tri-Nations campaign that saw five losses out of six after winning five from six last year, the Boks blew many opportunities to strike a mental blow to their Australasian opponents. Winning in Auckland – the venue for next year’s final – would have been a major blow to the Kiwis, but all the Boks can reflect on is three losses to New Zealand.

They also failed to beat them at home, while a young Australian side’s confidence will soar after breaking their Highveld drought of 47 years.

‘I don’t think there will be any mental scars,’ Steenkamp told keo.co.za regarding the second home loss. ‘We must give Australia their dues, they scored some great tries in the first half and cut us to pieces. But there’s no mental effect. We know what we can do when we put it together.’

Although Peter de Villiers sent a message to the public that you’re either for or against his squad, the Bok loosehead feels the criticism is justified. The Bloemfontein crowd began booing after 25 minutes when the Boks had already conceded the bonus point for four tries, but Steenkamp said he didn’t hear the jeers.

‘The country is disappointed with the results, and that’s fair. From the players’ perspective, we back the coaches and one another. Now we have to reflect. Only time will tell what effect these results will have on the us. We have to work out what went wrong and be critical on ourselves as individuals.’

The Boks’ complacency told as they trailed 31-13 at the break, and Steenkamp said there were some harsh words at the interval and after the final whistle.

‘At half-time the coach said show what you feel for one another and the guy standing next to you. Show the respect you have for one another.I think we can take a lot from that fighting spirit we showed.

‘Afterwards there was a definite mood of disappointment in the changing room. You don’t deserve to wear the Bok jersey if you’re happy after a loss at home. The message from John [Smit] was that each individual has to go back, look in the mirror and reflect on the Tri-Nations and their performances.’

While many individuals such as Smit and Bryan Habana are off form, Steenkamp has been one of the most consistent and hard working players through a forgettable campaign.

‘It would have been a great feeling to win today’s game. I’m not sure how well I’m playing, that’s for others to judge, but no personal success counts if you lose. You want the team to do well, so it’s bittersweet, playing well but not getting the results.’

By Grant Ball, In Bloemfontein