No year-end holiday for Boks
No year-end holiday for BoksSHARE
South Africa's top players are coming to the end of a very long and demanding year, but there will be no 'holiday' for the Springboks this week.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, speaking ahead of what he felt will be the 'ultimate test' for his side against England at Twickenham on Saturday, said he will not make the same mistake as he did the last time the two teams met.
After taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match June series against England, Meyer gave his players a break from training for a substantial period of the build-up for the final match. The result was near disastrous – a 14-all draw.
It has also been a custom of previous coaches to cut back training in the final week of the year-end tour, with the aim of getting the players mentally fresh in the hope they can overcome the physical fatigue that usually sets in after 10 months of constant rugby.
The coach admitted that the length of the season started to take its toll already, especially in the second half of the 21-10 win over Scotland last week.
"I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to training," Meyer told a media briefing at the team's base on London on Monday.
"I feel you have to train," he said, adding: "I believe with younger players, if you give them off it seems like you think you are going to win the game.
"I made that mistake before the third Test [of the June series] against England."
He said that while he will "cut the intensity back", he will continue with all the planned training sessions.
"It will be shorter sessions, but we are still going to go out there. There are lot of things we still need to improve.
"If you have an experienced side and they have been together for two to three years, everything will be in place.
"However, we still have a lot to work on."
Meyer also felt that there are "different dynamics" that England will bring to the party at Twickenham.
Meyer said there are other factors driving his team.
"To win every game on [the year-end] tour was one of our goals, something we [South Africa] haven't done for some time," he said of a year-end clean sweep which was last achieved by the Boks in 2008.
"From a team perspective, if we win this game, then we have only lost three games [this year].
Meyer compared his team, which includes a host of rookies, to the class of 2009 – which beat the B&I Lions, as well as winning the Tri-Nations, yet still lost four times.
"If you compare it with 2009, which many people said was one of our [South Africa's] best year's ever, we lost four games," the Bok mentor said.
"I know it will be very tough, but if we can come through [with a win] on Saturday, this team would have come a long way," he said of a side that would have lost just three times.
In fact it would equal the least number of defeats by a Bok side for the past decade, with Jake Whites World Cup-winning outfit of 2007 having lost three times that year.
Apart from 2007, the Boks have lost at least four matches (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2011) every year, while Jake White's class of 2006 lost seven matches – including a record-equalling five consecutive defeats.
Meyer said the high injury toll this year was also a factor.
"Go back to the first Test against England [in June]: Bismarck [du Plessis], Pierre [Spies], Bryan [Habana] and Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] still played – it is almost a new team playing," the Bok mentor said.
"It feels like three years back.
"It is going to be a huge challenge for us, especially a lot of these youngsters .
"However, you have to put it in perspective.
"If you look at Scotland, after the 2007 World Cup, we [SA] came here [the UK] and won just 14-10 [in 2008] and two years later we lost [17-21 in 2010].
"This team still has a long way to go, but I am looking at them to go out there and give one more great performance."
Meyer felt England will be even more motivated after they went down to Australia 14-20 at the weekend.
"Saturday will be the ultimate test," the Bok mentor said, adding: "England has a great team and we've got a lot of respect for them.
"They are always much better at Twickenham.
"They have moved on [under coach Stuart Lancaster] and are trying to play a more expansive game.
"He is a great coach and he'll definitely go places."