Heyneke Meyer says the value of the narrow wins on their European tour will be evident in the years ahead.
I’ve written extensively about what the potential fruits of this tour for the clutch of young and inexperienced players in particular will be and believe more strongly now that they will be central to the Springboks’ resurgence in 2013.
Better Springboks sides with better individuals have not matched what this scratch team achieved against the backdrop of a injury-ravaged season. Optimism must now take root, and Meyer urged this.
‘To win all three games is most positive. We’ve not used to playing in these conditions. The youngsters have adapted well, what they give up in experience they make up for in excitement. That really helped us,’ he began. ‘The set phases have been much better as was our kicking game. Pat [Lambie] was superb today. Youngsters like Eben [Etzebeth] stood up away from home, as did others. Its easier to win at home than away, and we’ve now won three on the trot, which is very encouraging. I really believe you’ll only see the benefits of a tour like this in the years ahead. That our depth is better and players that would otherwise have been on the fringe have this sort of experience is hugely valuable.’
There will be those who’ll lament the manner of their victories – defence ruling attack. We should, however, never lose sight of the fact that this was a Springboks side robbed of some of its best players, one at the end of the longest season in their careers and few settled combinations. Certainly there needs to be an improvement on attack, this level of defence is unsustainable, but for now Meyer lauded the defence resolve of his team.
‘This is how you win trophies. The World Cup is going to be here so its good that we have the experience of grinding out the wins like we did tonight. This team has come a long way. For me I don’t care how we did it, but we won,’ he said.
Captain Jean de Villiers reinforced Meyer’s view. ‘Its 50 per of the game and we’re up there with the best, if not the best, at it at the moment. The attitude and determination the guys showed in defence you can’t coach. As a captain that makes me very proud.’
Asked to assess the season more broadly, Meyer said: ‘It depends whether you look at glass half full or half empty. There were only three loses and those came against the top countries in the world. There were great [Springboks] sides that have come over here and didn’t win. We brought an inexperienced side, were ranked number four team in the world and now end as number two. I would have taken that if offered, especially with some of my superstars out. The youngsters put their hands up. Other players did as well
and the guys coming back have to play hard for their places next year.’