Boks will be judged by All Black performance
The Springboks may well have scored their ninth consecutive victory when they demolished Australia in one of their finest performances in Brisbane on Saturday night, but they know they will be judged on what they do against the World Champion All Blacks.
South African rugby has gone through many ebbs and flows over the course of its history, but while the Boks have won many more games than they have lost, the public's expectation that the side should win every game, has not dampened at all, and perhaps in the modern era only gotten greater.
Heyneke Meyer has always been a coach who has taken some time to get into his stride. When he started to rebuild the Bulls in 2001, it took him a good year and a half to get the team good enough to win the Currie Cup.
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But despite their success in the domestic competition, Meyer always used to remind anyone who would listen how his side wanted to be compared to the best – at that time the Canterbury Crusaders – and it took two cracks at the Super Rugby semifinals in 2005 and 2006 before his side finally became the first South African side to win the southern hemisphere competition in the professional era.
In the same, way he reminded Bok fans in his first year that the team would take time to develop.
Instead he was vilified by fans unwilling to give him the time to get the team up to a level where they could win consistently away from home.
That has now happened, but the Boks themselves readily admit they are nowhere near being world-beaters, even after their emphatic win in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Their journey has now taken them to nine consecutive victories – victories that cynics have written off as being against weaker sides.
But those who say that miss the fact that each victory has been a stepping stone for the Boks, and each has provided its own lessons.
Meyer admitted that this week is his greatest challenge personally as a coach, and the biggest challenge this group of players have had in their time together.
The Boks also know an expectant crowd will judge them on how they do against the All Blacks.
In Brisbane it was about believing they can win. This week that still counts, but Meyer stressed that it wasn’t just about belief against a side which he said “has no weaknesses”.
“It has been a journey for this team, and we are still way off where we want to be. When we beat England last year by one point the team started to believe and we have won nine on the trot now. Four of those were tough away games,” Meyer said.
“The belief is there, but you still have to do it on the pitch, it is no use to believe you can win, you have to also go out there and show you can win, especially this week. But there is a belief that we can beat the All Blacks.”
And just in case the local media tried to twist his words, he added a disclaimer at the end of his answer.
“I want to state it clearly – it is great being in New Zealand, I have a lot of respect for the All Blacks, and as a coach have unbelievable respect for their coaching team and what they stand for. We know even if you believe and your are focused you can still lose games against the All Blacks. I hope they have the same respect for us.”
The Boks would have woken the All Blacks up this week with their performance in Brisbane.
They won’t catch the world champions off guard and will face very different conditions from those in Brisbane, where a hard field and warm weather will likely be replaced by wet and cold.
But the Boks know they can play 10-man rugby if needed with ease. They have become a team that can change and adapt as they need to.
Whatever the result on Saturday, the Boks need to take another step forward. They need to continue their journey this weekend and continue their progression.
“I’ve never said we want to be measured at the World Cup. We want to be measured in every single game,” Meyer said on Monday.
In 2013 their progress has been good. This weekend will show how much they have grown as a team.