'It was a tough week living in South Africa'

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 13:16

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Springboks assistant coach Franco Smith said his players are determined to make a statement against the Wallabies after their horror show in their last outing against the All Blacks.

The Boks were completely blown away in their 0-57 defeat to New Zealand in Round Four and Smith has pin-pointed ball retention as an area where the Springboks struggled in Albany.

"The main thing for us to get the ball back in our hands," said Smith." I think we were completely without the ball [against the All Blacks]. 

"We dominated territory against the All Blacks. In the first half it was 63 percent. We were really having a good go at them in the first 20 minutes and unfortunately, maybe because our set piece was not functioning as it should, we hardly could get the ball in hand. 

"We were just living on turnover ball or counterattacking possibilities. So, what we wanted to play against the All Blacks couldn't come to light because of our starters [set pieces] not going well."

Smith added: "Having worked with the new mind-set in the last four years in South Africa since I returned, I know that it takes a bit of time. Obviously, at Test level we don't have that time and that luxury, and so every moment - whether it's in training or even in the games that are ahead - we need to gel as a team and look after the ball better and get our general shape as quickly as possible.

"Generally, I believe sides with the ball have the best chance to score a try...we are already playing on the right side of the field, dominating territory even against a side that we lost to. It is important for us just to convert that opportunities into points." 

Smith said he and his fellow coaches have to do very little to motivate the team this week after their last defeat. 

"I believe it [0-57 defeat] is part of the character building of the team. Experience is not what you know, it is what you do with what you know and unfortunately, an experience is the only way you can gain experience.

"I think we were on a roll, six games where we haven't lost and we played some good rugby and there were some good things and the team culture was carrying us and it still never changed.

"But the pressure with high expectation [for the All Blacks clash] maybe got to some of the guys. I think a third of our team faced the haka for the first time - we have a number of guys that have played less than 10 Tests and having faced the haka myself it is quite intimidating. 

"I think the nervousness will be something of the past.  The guys were so determined and hungry this week. 

"Yesterday [Monday] we had to rein them in at training because they were so prepared to make this right, so from a coach's point of view it was the easiest thing this week. 

"It was a tough week living in South Africa with that loss after we were really on top of the wave. So, I think the guys can't wait to get out there and there is no need for a coach to inspire them," said Smith.

By Warren Fortune

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