The Springboks this week placed a lot of emphasis on further improvement after their superb 31-8 victory over Australia in Pretoria last weekend as they prepare for Saturday’s big clash in The Castle Rugby Championship against New Zealand at Soccer City.
The Boks were impressive as they outscored the Wallabies by five tries to one at Loftus Versfeld, but immediately afterwards Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer warned his team that they need to show further improvement this week against the All Blacks.
Preparation wise it was a good week in Johannesburg for the Boks, despite a few minor injury niggles on Monday.
The bad news was that Frans Steyn (ankle) and Jacques Potgieter (abdominal strain) were withdrawn from the squad because of injuries, but their replacements, Lionel Mapoe and Arno Botha, brought new energy to the team.
The medical team also worked hard on Zane Kirchner (hip pointer), Johan Goosen (bruised heel), Willem Alberts (hip) and Jannie du Plessis (knee), who were all included in the team to face the All Blacks.
There was more good news for Coenie Oosthuizen, who was cleared to play after an examination by a neurosurgeon in Durban on Tuesday. The big prop injured his neck during his Test debut for South Africa against England in Durban in June and spent almost three months doing rehabilitation before returning to action in an Absa Currie Cup match two weekends ago.
The Boks are looking forward to playing at the very impressive Soccer City, south of Joburg, but they know how big the challenge posed by the All Blacks is.
Meyer said that he was pleased with the progress the Boks have since the disappointing draw against Argentina in Mendoza and the defeats against Australia in Perth and New Zealand in Dunedin.
“For a team that has only played a few games together it is starting to come together quite nicely, but New Zealand is the top team in the world and they have a great record at present with several consecutive victories and a winning habit,” said Meyer earlier this week.
“But before the Dunedin game we felt we could beat them and although we didn’t get over in the line we ended that match feeling we can beat them.
“However, it will take a massive effort from us, and we are going to have to be really clinical and execute everything perfectly in order to pull through with the victory that will make our country proud of us.”
Despite scoring five tries against the Aussies at Loftus, Meyer knows his team will face a different prospect this weekend and that the goal kicking will be even more important.
“The All Blacks are a great defensive side, as you can see from the fact that in two games this season they have not allowed their opponents to get off nil,” he said.
“They give very few tries away, and we know that to beat them we cannot do it just by scoring tries, we are going to have to get our kicks over as well.
“We do have a number of good kicking options in Johan Goosen and Ruan Pienaar. I have been pleased to see Pat Lambie kicking well in training and we also know what Elton Jantjies is capable of, so we do have options within the squad.”
Tickets are still available for the Test on Saturday, through Computicket, starting at R250 a ticket.