South Africa number eight Pierre Spies says the desire to atone for a poor Tri Nations campaign is a major motivation for the Springboks as they prepare for the second leg of their Grand Slam tour against Wales on Saturday.
Sporting Life reports that the world champions swept all before them in 2009, defeating the British and Irish Lions in an epic Test series before winning the Tri Nations title.
Their form understandably dipped when they headed for Europe this time last year, but their fall from grace this season has been startling.
The introduction of new law interpretations at the breakdown saw Australia and New Zealand get a jump on Peter de Villiers’ side, with the Springboks losing five of their six Tri Nations fixtures to finish bottom of the table.
De Villiers even faced a review process with his job rumoured to be in jeopardy, but remained in charge.
The absence of 13 players through injury had seen many predict a tough trip to Europe for the tourists, but they proved their critics wrong with a 23-21 win over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, and Bulls back-rower Spies says the injection of new blood into the squad is adding to the excitement of the party.
“We were disappointed with our results in the Tri Nations and we have been given another opportunity with this tour and what better way to start it than by beating Ireland in their new stadium?” said the 25-year-old.
“The guys played with hunger and a lot of pride and it’s a good step in the right direction for the future.
“We are motivated because of what happened in the Tri Nations and we want to make it up to ourselves and to the country.
“We have a blend of youth and experience within the squad which makes it lively, fresh and new and touring the UK
is always exciting and different from touring Down Under.
“We have had some mixed results but we are excited about the future.”
While South Africa are in a bullish mood following their win in Dublin, Wales head into Saturday’s game on the back of a 25-16 defeat to Australia that saw the men in red fail to capitalise on their forward dominance due to a lack of guile and craft in attack.
They also have a miserable record against South Africa, securing just one win in 24 Tests and 104 years of trying.
But Spies expects a tough examination, particularly from the Welsh pack.
“We expect a huge onslaught,” he said.
“They will be really hungry for victory and wanting to prove a point before next year’s World Cup, they will be fired up with their home crowd hoping to sing them on to a victory.
“The Welsh side have a strong forward pack and they will bring it to us all day, and Mike Phillips is like an extra forward and asks questions round the rucks or in broken field. If it rains it will probably be a lot like the game in Ireland.”
Wales and South Africa will meet in their opening World Cup fixture in Wellington next September, but Spies says the Springboks are not looking beyond Saturday’s contest.
“It’s in the back of our heads but as a group it’s about executing what we want to do, taking it week by week,” said the 38-cap forward.
“The game against Ireland is behind us and we want a win against Wales,
but it would lay the foundation for next year.”
South Africa, who name their team tomorrow, have no major injury worries with Jean de Villiers playing an hour against Ireland despite concern over a groin injury, while back-rower Willem Alberts has a calf strain that will be assessed through the week.
Peter de Villiers may decide to make a change to his back line now that Francois Steyn, who can play at centre, full-back or fly-half, has joined up with the squad after being released to play by Racing Metro.Tweet