50% not good enough, says Jean
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has emphasised the importance of victory in Saturday’s final test of 2012 by admitting that defeat to England at Twickenham would leave his record under-par for the year.
The Boks have won six out of 11 matches so far, with three defeats and two draws. Although the Boks’ three losses compares favourably with the best years post-isolation (only 1995 and 1998 have seen fewer defeats), the two draws were negative results in the sense that they came in matches the Boks would have been expected to win.
Victory on Saturday in a match which coach Heyneke Meyer has admitted is a defining test will give the Boks a much better than 50% average, but defeat will leave the season success rate at a level that De Villiers believes is unacceptable.
“The reality is that if we don’t win at Twickenham we’ll be looking at a 50% win ratio for the year, which is below this team’s standards,” said De Villiers.
“We’ve only lost three, but it’s important for us to win this one so we can go into next year with confidence. We’ve worked hard and had a reasonably successful tour from a results point of view. But we have to step up in different facets of our game, particularly the attack.”
On the last point, De Villiers denied that his team is too conservative, and said that the intention was to get the attacking game going. But sometimes the opposition and the circumstances just made it difficult.
“There’s always ambition, but sometimes opponents don’t always allow you to do what you want to do. You get judged by the result and not the style you employ,” he said.
There have been constant comparisons between the Boks and the All Blacks on this tour, particularly as Meyer has spoken about closing the gap and the Boks have now moved back into second spot on the world rankings. They need to win on Saturday to retain that ranking, but De Villiers, like his coach, doesn’t appear too fazed at this stage about the comparisons. That is because in his view, there shouldn’t be one made at this stage.
“I think the gap between us is still a big one. They’re a special team and they are showing the value of experience and of settled combinations,”said De Villiers.
“It takes time to build something to what the All Blacks have now. We’ve spoken a lot about soft moments costing us games this season, and experience helps to lower the chance of that. As an experienced player you’ve been there, made those mistakes and learned from it. It’s about getting through that rough patch, and if they do the value will be there to see.
“When you look at the Dunedin result (where the Boks lost narrowly and outplayed the All Blacks for long periods) and remember that we were in the game in Soweto before they outplayed us in the second half, then you take a bit of heart and realise that maybe you’re getting there.”
The bottom line though is that so much hinges on the result of the Twickenham game. Victory away over the team they started the season against will provide a concrete indication that the Boks are progressing, and the difference between England and teams like Scotland and Ireland is that against them any victory will do for the Bok fans, regardless of how it is achieved.
Perhaps De Villiers was wrong to suggest that no-one cares about what style you employ when you win, for the reaction to last week’s victory in Edinburgh suggests otherwise. That won’t be the case against England -- there isn’t a requirement to win at Twickenham in style, the requirement is just to win against the one northern hemisphere team that has won a World Cup.