Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said one of the aims for the Castle Outgoing Tour, that kicks off on Saturday against Ireland in Dublin, is to grow as a team.
The Boks, under a new coach in Heyneke Meyer and new captain in De Villiers, have used a lot of young players in 2012 after losing a host of experienced players to retirement and injuries.
It was a cold and wet Dublin that greeted the Boks on Friday as they concluded their preparations for the Test with the captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium.
“Before we left South Africa, we said we wanted to grow as a team. And in saying that, I mean growing in a lot of aspects,” said De Villiers in Dublin on Friday.
“I think our set plays have improved, especially the scrums and lineouts, and we hope to build on those.
“One area where we need to improve though is in our defence. We let in a couple of tries in our last Test, against quality opposition, but having played with and against a number of the Irish backs, I know they are capable of cutting you to shreds if you’re not up to it on the day.
“And if the weather is like it is today, the breakdown battle will also be immense. We basically need to make a step up in all areas.”
Asked about the role of Pat Lambie at flyhalf, De Villiers said: “He’s a class player. I think for the last couple of years, Pat has shown what he can do at all levels. He can play 10, 12 and 15 – and tomorrow he gets the opportunity to start at flyhalf.
“He has the full skill set to put up good performance, and I’m full of confidence that he’ll lead the side well as a flyhalf tomorrow.”
The Boks and Ireland have lost a number of core players because of injury, but according to De Villiers it is not an excuse.
“Both teams are in the same position regarding injuries,” he said. “We have close to 10 guys missing, who could make a massive difference were they to play.
“But that is the nature of rugby – I think the most important thing is to adapt and select the best possible side. It’s still a massive honour to play for your country and whoever is selected must go out and perform.”