Boks must build on ‘ugly win’

Heyneke Meyer once again praised the character and accuracy his side showed on defence but stressed that significant improvements were still required.

The Springboks were completely dominant in the first half of the Murrayfield Test but Scotland rebounded with a strong second half performance that saw the visitors pinned deep in their half for the bulk of the second 40 minutes.

The Springboks did brilliantly in restricting them to one try, achieving this through punishing defence, but Meyer said that alone was not acceptable.

‘I was very disappointed in the second half, I thought we played tactically well in the first. It was the plan to build an innings and at 14-3 at half-time you could move on from there. We were in control, then we conceded too many penalties, especially at the scrums,’ he said.

‘But I’m happy with the defence, which was awesome. Also it has been a long season for most of the players and in the second half you could see they just weren’t there. So, I’m not totally happy but I’ll take the win. It was ugly, but that’s how you
win trophies, especially the World Cup.’

Captain Jean de Villiers is well accustomed to grinding out wins through suffocating defence, with that being the hallmark of his Stormers side. He took heart not only from the technical strength of that discipline but also what it said about the emotional investment of individual players.

‘Defence is not something you can coach entirely. It comes from within and the attitude you show there reflects your attitude towards the team and its cause. That’s why I was pleased. A lot was said last week when Scotland scored three tries against New Zealand, and we managed to restrict them to one. I think it is something that is sustainable. As long as that is there I’m optimistic about the future,’ he said.

There will once again be inquests around the Springboks’ inability to score more tries despite the time they enjoyed in the Scotland 22m in the first half. Meyer has lamented this, and did so once more.

‘I was frustrated that we didn’t get enough quick ball in the first half. I thought there were a couple of times that we could have scored had that happened, so that is really frustrating,’ he said. ‘We have to be better in that area. We can’t keep getting in their 22m and not scoring. The best in the world score points when they’re there.’

Scotland coach Andy Robinson bemoaned his side’s impotent first half performance, particularly their penalty count.

‘The last 30 minutes was very pleasing but the first 50 was hugely frustrating. You just can’t give a side of that quality that many chances to kick at goal. Also, last week we were facing speed, this week it was physicality. They were the toughest team we’ve played against. They showed the gulf that exists between the sides,’ he said.

‘They’ve got a plan and it works for them. Their pack, with Eben Etzebeth and Francois Louw coming in, is one that is becoming very balanced. Ruan Pienaar is a world class footballer and when that pack has given him a platform he has been able to show that. Then you look at JP Pietersen, who is a quality finisher and today he showed that he is a quality defender. There are some very good elements there.’

Meyer’s men have one more obstacle to a tour sweep, in the form of England at Twickenham. Meyer said they were desperate to go unbeaten, and drew confidence from their notable resilience under the pump.

‘Our goal was to be unbeaten on the year-end tour, which hasn’t happened in a couple of years. We’re 2-0 up but we’ll have to be mentally up for the last one. There is a huge amount of improvement needed, but better Springboks teams have lost against the Scots and Ireland,’ he said. ‘The one thing I’ve been happy with is the composure of this young side. They don’t panic and Jean has been brilliant in his leadership. There’s one game left and if we win that will have achieved our goal.’