Disciplined Boks ready to run
Disciplined Boks ready to runSHARE
South Africa are ready for anything Australia can throw at them – be that provocative bullying tactics among the forwards or fleet-footed backs trying to run them ragged.
The Springboks and Wallabies will face off in a crucial Rugby Championship match in Brisbane on Saturday, a city where the Boks have not won since 1971.
However, it was the Wallabies' tactics, rather than the Boks' track record, that was the main topic of discussion at Bok coach Heyneke Meyer's media briefing on Wednesday.
The Bok mentor admitted that he was expecting a Reds-style attacking onslaught from the Quade Cooper-piloted Wallabies on Saturday.
Meyer rated Australia's refined backline – featuring mercurial Reds playmaker Cooper at flyhalf and Israel Folau at fullback – among the most dangerous his side has ever encountered.
However, he was also preparing his team for any possible "provocation", given that Argentina managed to disrupt South Africa with spoiling tactics in Mendoza a fortnight ago.
Following a record 73-13 victory over the Pumas in Soweto in Round One of the competition, the Boks managed to scrape to a 22-17 win over the same team a week later – an encounter that ended with Argentinean No.8 Leonardo Senatore banned for nine weeks after being found guilty of biting Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth and flank Pablo Matera cleared of eye gouging, despite giving Springbok counterpart Francois Louw a facial massage.
Meyer dismissed the notion that similar provocative tactics will lure his team into a tit-for-tat spiteful scrap.
"We don't go into a game like that," Meyer said, when quizzed about possible provocation by the Wallabies.
"I have been very happy with our discipline in the last few games," the Bok mentor said, adding: "That is one of the areas I have be very hard on and I think we have really improved in.
"We just go out there to play as physical as possible, within the laws.
"There are other teams that have provoked us, but the guys have been very disciplined up till now.
"We are going to play positive rugby and focus on the positives.
"You need to be focussed and you need to be clinical – there is no way you can get emotional and do irrational things."
Meyer reiterated the massive challenge of playing Australia at Suncorp Stadium – a venue where the Boks have never won, given that their last triumph in Brisbane was more than four decades ago at the Exhibition Ground.
"If we are going to progress as a team, we need to start winning away from home and Saturday's Test provides this challenge," said Meyer.
"It's no use looking at history now – we have to focus on the Test, ensure we tick the right boxes and improve in the areas where we let ourselves down in Mendoza."
Meyer continued to praise the Wallabies, suggesting their attacking game will come more to the fore on Saturday.
"The way the Reds played it was all full-out attack," Meyer said, when asked about the decision to start with Cooper at flyhalf and Folau at fullback.
"You look at this team and it's a really full-on attack team.
"They know we have travelled so they will really try to run our forwards flat and tired.
"Without talking them up too much I think this is probably one of the best backlines we have faced, and not just this year."
Meyer suggested his side would have to make up to 150 tackles, a huge amount in Test rugby, to end their horrible Brisbane drought.
Under Robbie Deans the Wallabies played a more conservative style, but the Boks believe they thrive when Cooper is running and spreading the ball wide.
"They will play to their strengths and that has worked for them in the past," Meyer said.
"If you look at that backline they would be crazy not to move the ball around.
"That's where Australia has been at their best, if they play like that.
"Sooner or later they have to try that moving forward."
That does not mean the Wallabies will be soft up front.
"It is always tough playing the Wallabies," the Bok coach said, adding: "[A] lot of times people underestimate their forwards.
"I thought they really played well against the British and Irish Lions.
"You know it is going to be physical, it is always physical. Sometimes people think they have great attacking backs, but don't have the physical forwards.
"However, Ewen [McKenzie] is a great coach and he believes in the set pieces, same that I believe in.
"I know their pack will improve and as I said, they're a physical pack [of forwards] and we expect a really physical onslaught."