Boks wary of Scotland backlash
There aren’t any survivors in the Springbok coaching staff from the last visit to Edinburgh in 2010, but that does not mean that the lessons of that trip haven’t been absorbed by the current group.
Almost without being asked, coach Heyneke Meyer started talking up Scotland at the start of the build-up week to Murrayfield, where the Boks slid to a disastrous defeat in the wet and the mud. It wasn’t wet here in 2008, but in that game the Boks were also well short of their best, and after a horrendous first half they only just managed to steady the ship enough in the second to squeak to the narrowest of wins.
As often is the case, the Boks haven’t been helped by the fact that they are visiting Edinburgh after the All Blacks have been here. That so many people, including the All Blacks themselves, are lauding Scotland for playing well even though they shipped 34 points before halftime is an indication of both just how good the Kiwis may be as well as, conversely, how desperate the Scots are these days.
But Meyer reckons the margin of the All Black win was skewed, with most of the destruction coming during a brief purple patch in which the game was effectively won and lost.
“This might sound like me doing a PR job, but I really do think the Scots are a quality side,” said the Bok coach.
“There was about 10 minutes of sheer brilliance from the All Blacks in the match on Sunday, but otherwise I thought Scotland were very competitive.
They impressed me with their ability to carry the ball and they scored three tries against the All Blacks. That is something that neither us or Australia have come close to managing this year.
“The Kiwis boast a great defensive record, and when they played Ireland in June they kept them scoreless. It’s going to be important for us to stay focused this week and to be sharp on match day.”
This video is not available in your region
Meyer admitted that he is struggling a bit with what for him is a new challenge of trying to refocus his players at the end of a long season in which they have been chasing many different goals.
“I thought we trained well in Dublin last week, so I don’t think there was anything in the preparation that contributed to our poor first half at the Aviva Stadium,” he said.
“But it is a new situation for me. We were together for the Rugby Championships just a few weeks ago, and then the players went off and played Currie Cup for a few weeks, something that they also take very seriously and it is a competition they want to win.
Then a few weeks later here we are back together again trying to carry on from where we left off in the southern hemisphere season. It’s not easy and managing the players in such a way that they will be able to give their best on the field during the game is an interesting new challenge for me.”
There is supposed to be an experimental component to an end of year tour, and the game against the Scots is usually the one were the most mixing and matching is done, but Meyer has been unable to do that on this tour. He is likely to make just one change to the starting team for Murrayfield, which means several of the exciting youngsters that so much of a fuss was made of when they were selected into the squad, players such as Raymond Rhule, probably won’t get game time on this tour.
“Selecting is always difficult, and I have discovered that is particularly so for a Springbok coach,” said Meyer.
“I would like to give players an opportunity so that we can spread our depth, but because we are a young side it is also important for us to build continuity. People forget we have only effectively been together now for 10 weeks. That is not a lot of time when you are talking about test rugby.
“I don’t want to give away Springbok caps, and we are expecting a tough fight from Scotland. So while it would be nice to give new players a go, Scotland is really not the team to be doing that against. I would prefer any experimentation that I do to come from the bench.”