Meyer urges self-belief
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer acknowledged that the younger members of his team may be carrying emotional scars after slipping to defeat against Australia but that they had to believe in themselves if they wanted to have any chance of beating the All Blacks on Saturday.
South Africa began the last 13 minutes of the test against Australia tied at 19-all before the Wallabies pulled away thanks to a try from prop Ben Alexander.
Meyer said that many of the younger players in the squad still had to get used to the pressure that comes with playing test match rugby and that they had been deflated after losing a match that they had held a 13-3 lead in at one point.
“It was a big emotional blow because we were really up for the game and believed that we could win it. But the mark of a quality side is the ability to comeback from defeats like that. I’ve always said that test match rugby is not about the game-plan or who is playing the best it is about your ability to handle pressure because there is huge pressure in every game,” Meyer told a news conference in Auckland on Monday.
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“I’m very proud of the youngsters and I believe that it is the right way to go especially looking forward to the World Cup. Eben (Etzebeth) is still 20, Marcell Coetzee has just turned 21, Patrick Lambie is still only 22 and a lot of those guys will learn. The only way they are going to learn is by being in this position and being under pressure week in, week out and within a year or two they will be quality test players,” he added.
South Africa will travel to Dunedin on Thursday before playing the current world champions on Saturday and Meyer explained that it was important that the team adopted a positive mind-set to compete with their arch-rivals.
“I really believe that, as a team, we have really improved since the first test match together. We have been together for six tests now and there are certain areas of our play that I am really happy with. We still have some soft moments in our play but you only get that when you are under pressure. You can’t afford moments like that when you are playing New Zealand because they will punish you every single time.
“If they get a lead, and you have to chase them away from home, they will put you away by 20 to 30 points. We have to improve, but it is also a mindset. We have to go in there and believe that we are going to win.
“It is against my principles and you will never grow as a team that just tries to keep the score down so we are going to go out there and try and play positive rugby. It is also important that you play to your strengths and we did that for 60 minutes against Australia. We need small improvements in every area,” he said.