In what is easily a travel first in the history of the Tri-Nations, a starting team this week arrived at the overseas destination of their Test match just 72 hours before kick-off.
Yesterday, this meant Springbok coach Peter de Villiers immediately having to explain his thinking to the amazed Australian media, who think the Boks have been arrogant with their travel plans. And then came a barrage of questions regarding the alleged disservice the Springboks are doing the game with their current match strategy.
Mike Greenaway writes for the IOL that on both counts, a calm De Villiers acquitted himself well.
“We usually would have left last Friday for a tour opener such as this where we have had a bye the week before, meaning we would have had eight days before the test, but the players feel that it is better to shorten the tour, and that we can get away with it because Perth is relatively close to South Africa (nine and half hours flight; six hours time difference).”
The Boks are arguing that what you gain by acclimatisation by travelling early, you lose from hotel fatigue.
And then came the inevitable questions about how the Boks are killing world rugby with their kicking game.
“I said when I took over as coach that South African rugby should be a leader and not a follower,” De Villiers said. “After isolation, it took a long time for us to get to grips with the fact that we can be the leaders.
“For other big rugby countries such as New Zealand and Australia to be trying to follow us this season speaks volumes for the fact that we are now dictating terms on how rugby should be played.”
De Villiers was basing that statement on his point that both the Wallabies and the All Blacks kicked more in last week’s Bledisloe Cup match than either had against the Boks in South Africa.
“You guys are making the point that we have an obligation to rugby union to entertain,” he said. “Well entertainment is on our list of things to tick off but the game has moved in a certain direction that favours the way we are playing right now, and our obligation is to South Africa first, then the world.”
De Villiers said that the Boks had moved in the direction of kick-and-chase because of the law changes.
“We did not invent this game, write the laws or make the changes to them. Things like not being able to pass the ball back into your 22 to clear it called for an adaptation (the Boks hoist it high and chase down the receiver and hound him into a mistake).
“That law change was instigated by Australia to speed up the game.
“We have adapted extremely well to law changes and are proud of it. It is not that we are kicking more for the sake of it, we are just kicking the ball back when we are in an unfavourable position.”
De Villiers said that the way the Boks were playing now was not the be-all and end-all of rugby.
He said the game evolved every year according to how defences operated and to how the law changed.
“The pendulum swings in this game from all-out attack with ball in hand to an emphasis on kicking. We are playing a certain today but that might change tomorrow,” he said.
“When I took over, I said the Boks would play total rugby, and some folk assumed in their wisdom that I meant that we would throw every ball we got around the park.
“Total rugby is about being skilled in every aspect of the game and then choosing when to use a particular set of skills according to the circumstances. We are doing now what is required to win Test matches and people who understand the game should applaud how well we have adapted.”
De Villiers is expected today to name the same team that beat the Wallabies in Cape Town two weeks ago.Tweet