White: Bok victory bodes well for 2007

Springbok coach Jake White labelled Saturday’s 25-14 win over England at Twickenham in London as a “huge psychological boost” ahead of next year’s World Cup.

White’s men are in the same pool as England in September and, as he noted, “no side who has lost their pool has gone on to win the World Cup”.

The Springboks’ first win outside South Africa this year and their first against England at Twickenham since 1997 was founded on a superb performance by outside-half Andre Pretorius, who kicked 20 points, including four drop goals.

“I don’t think we won today [Saturday] just because the half-backs and loose forwards played well,” White told reporters. “Last week I thought the half-backs played very well but we still lost. We won today because of a complete team performance.”

Before the match, skipper John Smit described the Springboks’ unflattering record at Twickenham as “disgusting”.
Having not won in London in nine years, Smit said “it weighs heavily on my mind”.

After avenging last week’s 23-21 loss to England, where a 12-point lead was squandered, Smit said this match proved how much an inexperienced squad had matured in a three-week span that began with a record 32-15 defeat by Ireland in Dublin.

“Last week we were probably in a better position at half-time and had the match in the bag. We didn’t tie the knot, though,” the hooker explained.

“This week we absorbed a huge amount of intense pressure in the second half and held on. That showed a huge amount of poise,” added Smit, whose front-row colleague CJ van der Linde scored the Springboks’ lone try on half-time.

Before the World Cup, South Africa face England twice at home, in Bloemfontein and Pretoria.

“Today was a massive win, a huge step forward,” gushed White, much criticised at home for resting several senior players from this tour. “Winning here for the first time since 1997 is a huge psychological boost. Next year we play England in Bloemfontein and at Loftus, and having beaten them in the last outing, we will hold a huge advantage.

“The big thing, of course, is the World Cup. Beating the world champions at home eight months before the World Cup is huge.”

Although White insisted the victory was due to an all-round team performance, it was Pretorius who shut England out of the match with two penalties and a conversion as well as his four drop goals.

That he only played because first-choice stand-off Butch James was sent home with a knee injury was not lost on the 27-year-old pivot.

“After that performance against Ireland and then coming on last weekend and not playing particularly well, I admit my confidence was not at an all-time high,” Pretorius said.

“But I really don’t think I was under extra pressure. There’s always pressure in Test rugby, especially at flyhalf. But I just wanted one more chance and I although I’m sorry that Butch got injured, I’m happy I was given a chance today.”

He continued: “To be honest, though, when the side played as well as they did today, it makes my job so much easier.”—Sapa-AFP

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