Getting the stars to align
Tue, 03 Jun 2014 17:20
None of these guys want to embarrass themselves
Although he has no shortage of firepower at his disposal, Nick Mallett's biggest challenge is making the World XV a cohesive unit by Saturday.
With the last six players in the match-day squad only arriving in Cape Town at lunchtime on Wednesday, the competitive Mallett will have only a few training sessions to turn them into a side capable of competing with the Springboks.
The former Bok coach believes that the key will be their mental approach and has already made it clear to the squad that this week is about rugby and not about how much fun they can have off the field.
"I explained to them that it will be an unpleasant afternoon for them if they are not really prepared, because South Africa are a very well-organised team and a hell of a physical team so if you are not up for the combat you are going to get hurt as well.
"If you go to them and say lets all go out for a drink tonight and have a lot of fun here and it will all be alright on the night that won't happen.
"You can't have three of the guys thinking 'ag no this is a piss-up and I am not going to worry about it too much', because then I promise you as I said to you it is going to be embarrassing.
"If you are not prepared for the confrontation and putting your body on the line it can be a difficult game.
"They are professional players and they don't want to let themselves down, none of these guys want to embarrass themselves so you have got to appeal to that," he said.
Having coached Barbarians teams in the past, Mallett knows that their attitude will be key if they are to challenge what is a proud Springbok team.
"The whole thing hinges on them having the right attitude, we all know that they can play they are all good rugby players so it is not so much about their talent as much as their state of mind.
"It is a very strange side because they are not playing for a club or a country and there are not those reasons to create that team spirit so you have to appeal to their professionalism and the inherent rugby player who doesn't want to be humiliated.
"This is a good team but it is a very different challenge, you are playing away from home against the second best team in the world.
"I have been fortunate enough to coach guys at the end of their November tours and those guys wanted to stay on and play for the BaaBaas because there was a little bit of pressure off so it is a relaxed week but there is a lot of focus on playing well on the day," he said.
Whilst the Barbarians are known for their ethos of all-out attacking rugby, Mallett will not give his players a licence to run the ball from anywhere, having seen what the Boks can do to teams that try to play too much rugby in their own half.
He pointed to their victory over the Wallabies in Brisbane last year as a prime example of what Heyneke Meyer's team are capable of if allowed to dominate territorially.
"I am really trying to make it a competitive game, I don't think any team nowadays can just have a crack from anywhere and be successful.
"The last team that tried that were Australia against the Boks at home, they had a very good backline and they played 70% of the first half in their half with 75% possession and they lost by 30-odd points and we scored four tries against them.
"So South Africa is very adept at making the most of your mistakes and punishing you. So this a game where you have got to give the guys a structure to get out of their half properly and they must have a defensive system," he said.
Whilst there is only so much you can do to form a team in a few days, it is clear that the competitior in Mallett is desperate to give the Boks a run for their money and if the stars in his squad respond well to that attitude then they will certainly prove a tricky prospect for the second-best Test side in the world.
By Michael de Vries
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