Mendoza a blessing in disguise for Boks
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers believes their struggle to beat Argentina in Mendoza has turned out to be a blessing in disguise ahead of the tougher assignments in this year’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
De Villiers and his teammates arrived back in South Africa on Monday morning for three days' break before they re-assemble and start their preparations for matches against Australia in Brisbane and New Zealand in Auckland on September 7 and 14 respectively.
De Villiers again fronted up to the fact that the performance in Mendoza was not up to the Boks' standards but admitted that a bit of “perspective” was a valuable thing in modern rugby, and as wake-up calls go, the Boks were treated to a perfect one by their Argentine hosts.
It is clear Mendoza exposed some Bok flaws that were covered up by their seven wins on the trot thus far this season, and reminded both the Boks and their fans that this team still has a lot of work to do before they can put up a consistent challenge to the world's best team.
It was also a reminder that if they play the same way, the All Blacks likely will be more clinical and ensure that the Boks don’t sneak home with a victory.
Still, keeping all that in context, the Boks at least know what they need to work on going into the Antipodean part of their season, one which will be tougher than anything they will encounter this year.
De Villiers believes the Mendoza game, which he admits wasn’t their best, probably has a lot of important lessons for the side.
“We did learn a lot from the game. It was important for us to see everything in perspective, and that we’ve still got a lot of hard work to do before we are to be where we can be. We get together again on Thursday and we will be preparing well for the trip abroad,” De Villiers said.
“We are happy with the result. It’s been quite a while since we’ve won away from home in this competition, happy with that but not happy with our performance and we need to improve our performance before the next few games.”
The game stats show that the Boks missed no fewer than 17 tackles but their setpieces were solid and while they possibly tried to play too much rugby, Argentina benefitted from slowing the ball down immensely.
De Villiers was quick to point out there were way too many mistakes to be happy about.
“The ambition was there for us to play a bit of rugby but we made too many handling errors, and too many mistakes. Probably from their part they tried to make it as slow as possible. The stats say there were 29 minutes of ball in play during the game, and that is slow by any standards. It was a stop start game and we couldn’t pick up the pace.”
But De Villiers said the team was at least progressing, especially after their performance last year in Mendoza where they scraped to an uninspiring draw.
“It does show progress that we managed to adapt at the end. It was definitely disappointing from a team point of view how we played, but to get a positive result it shows we are still growing as a team.”
The Boks will reconvene on Thursday, but it is unlikely that there will be many changes to the touring squad.