We’ll take the win, says Heyneke
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he was not happy with the way his team released pressure and allowed Scotland back into the game after halftime, but said winning ugly wins trophies and he was pleased with the way his team had laid the foundation for their 21-10 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
“The last time the Springboks came to Scotland a more experienced team than the one that played for us today lost, so we will take the win,” said Meyer afterwards.
“I was disappointed with the second half because I really thought we had done everything we had set out to do in the early part of the game. Unlike last week we built our innings, and we really dominated the Scots until the 50th minute. But in the second half it was a bit like last week’s first half in terms of us conceding penalties.
“I am not happy with that. We pride ourselves on discipline, so we have to sort those problems out. Whenever there was a penalty they kicked us into the corner, and it is hard to play from there. We played almost the entire last half hour of the game in our own half. But in the first half it was reversed, and when we applied the pressure it was us who won penalties.”
Meyer found it hard to pinpoint exactly what led to the massive momentum shift that, although it did not make any difference to the final result, allowed Scotland to escape with a modicum of self-respect from a game where they were being comprehensively outplayed when they were down 21-3 after 50 minutes.
“It’s hard to say what happened, but I think the Scots lifted themselves after they scored their try off a lineout set in the corner off a penalty.
That gave them momentum, and they knew that if they just played the game in our half, they could play off penalties that we conceded. It was very frustrating and something we are going to have to redress.
“But while I always hate to be seen to be making excuses, I also want to add that it has been a long and tiring year for us. I think there were quite a few players that just never had a second 40 minutes in them today.”
Obviously that is going to have to require some sharp and clever management from Meyer this week, as England now stand between the Boks and their mission of finishing off the year with an unbeaten overseas tour. In 2008, when the Boks were captained by John Smit and coached by Peter de Villiers, they hardly trained at all in the last week of the tour, and ended up scoring a record 42-6 win.
If there are areas of concern for the Boks outside of their staying power at this late stage of the season, they should be concentrated mainly on the backs. There was enough ball for the Boks to put the Scots away in the first half, but they just couldn’t get it well enough together at the back to get across the line. The Boks' first-half try came from a lineout set up by a penalty, and it was a lineout followed by a few phases that put them in for their try in Dublin last week.
SUPERB TACTICAL KICKING
That might account for skipper Jean de Villiers’s decision to kick many of the kickable penalties that his team were awarded to touch instead of at goal. Had the Boks opened up more space on the scoreboard, they might have forced the Scots into making the errors that would have seen points piled on, but De Villiers reckons he got it right.
“The decision not kick for poles comes down to gut feel. The first one only just never worked for us, but then it worked for us later on,” said De Villiers.
“All the players gave me backing for my decision, and we felt we got it right most of the way.”
According to Meyer, the decision not to kick for poles was based on the need to strangle Scotland early in the game.
“We decided beforehand that we were going to put them under pressure as we knew they would come out firing and eager to get their crowd in behind them and to get a foothold in the game,” said Meyer.
“We succeeded in what we set out to do. We kept them in their half for the first 20 minutes. The first call not to kick was a 50/50 call, but I thought our tactics worked well. Our tactical kicking was superb in the first half, and I thought Patrick Lambie really played well before halftime. But the second half was a bit like the first half last week in that you can’t really influence the game with tactical kicking when you don’t have the ball.”
Meyer was backed in his view on how the Boks had laid their foundation by Scotland coach Andy Robinson, who looked disappointed at the post-match press conference. He acknowledged that his men had been outplayed by the subdue and penetrate approach of their opponents.
“Last week (against the All Blacks) we faced speed, this week we faced physicality, and we just weren’t up to it,” said Robinson.
“We have to learn lessons from this. We cannot give away penalties like we did, the Springbok tactics were spot on. They controlled territory in the first half and didn’t allow us into the game. It was when we controlled territory in the second half that we came back into the game and gained a bit of momentum. But the physical Springbok defence was too good for us.
“In the second half we didn’t give away penalties like we did in the first because our defence was on the front foot. Going into this sequence of games we knew both would be a tough challenge, but ultimately we were let down by not being able to produce an 80 minute performance in either.
“The Boks look like they are developing well. They play to a plan, stick to that plan, and they have the players to implement that plan. They all understand the plan. The Boks have strong ball carriers, and the arrival of Francois Louw in their team has given them a balance that maybe they lacked before. Ruan Pienaar is also a class footballer.
“They are a team that is starting to formulate, and formulate well. We know someone like JP Pietersen is a quality finisher, but today we saw that he is also a quality defender.”