South African coach Peter de Villiers fears “mental fatigue” could lead to a lack of motivation for the world champions when they face England at Twickenham on Saturday.
AFP reports that since beating England 15-6 in last year’s World Cup Final, the Springboks have won nine of their 13 subsequent Tests and lost the other four – including home defeats in this year’s Tri-Nations against both New Zealand and Australia.
There were signs that the treadmill of modern professional rugby was catching up with some of De Villiers’s squad during an unconvincing 14-10 win over Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend, which saw South Africa having to come from 0-10 behind.
De Villiers admits players may well now be thinking of what they will do with their time-off but, unlike some coaches, he was sympathetic and not critical as his team approached their final Test of 2008.
“Sometimes it’s very, very difficult to motivate yourself to stand up and just go on and on and on,” de Villiers said in London Monday. “It’s always the biggest challenge in rugby to get motivated.
“We’re talking from the players’ point of view. These guys play around the clock against all these big nations.
“Physically they’re trained to deal with it but there’s a mental fatigue that nobody sees. They’re thinking ‘five days more and then I can go back to my family’. Fatigue is taking its toll.
“I think for the sake of the players I’m so glad the year’s done.
“You look where we started last year in November. The players had three weeks off and then went straight into Super 14 and then it goes on and on and on. All of these guys played in the Currie Cup too.
“Five days more and then it’s the end of the year. It’s going to be very difficult. I just hope they uplift themselves a little [on Saturday] to the level we expect.”
England were beaten 28-14 by Australia at Twickenham last Saturday, but the Springbok coach was still impressed by the way they performed – singling out the halfback duo of Danny Care and Danny Cipriani, as well as fullback Delon Armitage for special mention.
“They played really good,” he said. “I think the few penalties they gave away in the early stages of the game put them on the back foot.
“The halfbacks played exceptionally well and I think the fullback is someone who, if you don’t deal with him correctly, will nail you. There aren’t a lot of weaknesses in the England side.
“And any game where you play the world champions gives you extra motivation. We are always under pressure in that respect.”
De Villiers is due to announce his team to play England on Tuesday.
He already knows he will be without hooker Bismarck du Plessis (hamstring tear) and prop Gürthro Steenkamp (ankle sprain) after the front row forwards injured themselves against Scotland.
However star wing Bryan Habana, who sustained a thigh injury at Murrayfield, is expected to be fit for selection.Tweet