Peter de Villiers has given up all hope of winning the Tri-Nations and says the Springboks will now focus on the World Cup.
The Boks were pounded by Australia in Sydney and then smashed by New Zealand in Wellington. At the halfway stage of their Tri-Nations campaign, there’s no real chance of them rebounding to win the tournament.
De Villiers went into the Tri-Nations with the aim to win it and reclaim the No 1 world ranking, although this declaration was at odds with his selection policy. He excluded as many as 21 players from the touring group, and they were sent to a World Cup preparation camp in Rustenburg.
After the loss to New Zealand, De Villiers conceded that there is no way back in this Tri-Nations campaign.
‘Pretty much the Tri-Nations has gone for us. We’ll move our focus to preparing for the World Cup,’ the Bok coach said. ‘The All Blacks are more ready now for the World Cup and they deserve the tag of favourites to win it.’
De Villiers said that the first-choice players will undergo medical tests next week, but there are no guarantees that they will feature in the last two Tri-Nations Tests in South Africa.
De Villiers said he was still able to take some positives from the double defeats on the team’s two-week trip to Australasia.
‘Obviously, I’m very disappointed. Test rugby is the ultimate. You have the opportunity to come out here and represent your country,’ he said. ‘There are a few positives, especially when you look at what we do have, such as experience, and there are a few guys who put up their hands and there are a few who didn’t. So, for me, there are a lot of benefits going forward. These kinds of experiences you can’t buy at any stage.’
The record-breaking defeat in Wellington featured some of the worst defensive play seen in De Villiers’ tenure, but he chose to focus on their performance when they retained possession on attack.
‘Our execution was much better tonight than it was a week ago. When we held on to the ball the guys were very neat out there. But you can’t lose the ball at critical stages and give the All Blacks that many turnovers. They punished us and we were made to scramble and we didn’t have the most mobile pack today.
‘But then again, the positive is that when we hold on to the ball you can see there was no answers on our players.’