Time for Boks to make new memories
It is time for the current Springbok team to “make their own memories” and a good place to start would be Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand in Dunedin, South Africa captain Jean de Villiers said on Friday.
South Africa won their last test against New Zealand in Dunedin, a splendid 30-28 victory at the old Carisbrook Stadium when scrumhalf Ricky Januarie bamboozled the All Blacks' defence to score a memorable try but De Villiers said that the current Springbok team could not live on old memories.
“This is a totally new team, and I don’t always think that you have to go back to the past and relive that, because we’ve got our goals and need to make our own memories now,” De Villiers told reporters in Dunedin.
“It’s a new stadium, and even though it was a great day in 2008 in Carisbrook, this is a totally different ball-game. It has been done in the past, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again,” he added.
The Springboks’ last test, in Perth against Australia last week, went almost unnoticed in the Australian city but there is no doubt that they are in a rugby town in Dunedin.
A horse called Butch James was running at a local race meeting while a New Zealander had hitchhiked down from Christchurch and waited at the Bok hotel from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon until he had got every member of the squad’s autograph.
The increase in interest means an increase in pressure but De Villiers said that after six matches in charge he is starting to get used to the pressures of the job.
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“I knew from the first day that this is not an easy job. It’s a great thing, a great privilege to be the captain of your country, but there will be tough times. And this is definitely a tough time now, after the first loss for the team and a couple of disappointing performances before that.
“The pressure is definitely on now, and it’s in these tough times that we need to pull together as a team and believe in the systems that have been put in place, and believe in where we are heading as a team. That’s the challenge, and it is where you show whether you are good enough to do this job,” he explained.
New Zealand are unbeaten in six tests this year while South Africa are coming off a draw with Argentina and a loss to Australia.
The hosts are overwhelming favourites for Saturday’s game but De Villiers laughed off any suggestion that the Springboks would be feeling any less pressure.
“The team know what’s expected of them. It’s a South Africa-All Black test: it’s special, and it always will be. Growing up and playing in the back yard, you sort of dream about these days, to represent your country against the All Blacks.
"And which better place to play than in the new stadium under the roof. It’s a great day for everyone, and hopefully we can live up to expectations,” he said.
De Villiers also shot down any talk that his team was little more than cannon-fodder for the All Blacks.
“If we didn’t believe that we could put up a good showing, then we probably wouldn’t have been here. We could just give them the four points and go back to our families.
“My daughter’s nine-months-old today, so it wouldn’t have been a bad thing to go home! But representing your country is something special as well, and we believe that with the game that we play, we can be competitive.
"Like I said, if we can use those negatives that we’ve worked on and turn them into positives, we can get a good result tomorrow,” he concluded.