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30 Jun 2009 16:04
The Springboks will go into the third and final Test match against the British and Irish Lions brimming with confidence as they seek a third straight victory to seal a historic whitewash.
Not since 1968 have South Africa claimed a 3-0 series win, albeit with one draw, over the cream of the four home nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
For the Lions, the series is already lost having been defeated in the opening two Tests, 26-21 and 28-25, meaning that they have yet to claim a tour series win since they last visited South Africa in 1997, when they won 2-1.
Despite the series already being in the bag, assistant Bok coach Dick Muir said there was no problem with motivating his players, stressing that a front-line team would be selected with the gruelling Tri-Nations competition against Australia and New Zealand to follow.
“We will put out as strong a team as possible, taking into consideration that it has been a long year already, that we have the Tri-Nations ahead of us, and then the Currie Cup and end-of-year tour ahead,” Muir said on Tuesday.
“It’s not been for the faint-hearted,” the former Bok centre said of the past 10 days of rugby.
The Springboks let the Lions back into the first Test in Durban and then had to claw back a 19-8 deficit for victory in the second in Pretoria.
Muir also coached the Emerging Springboks side that battled to a last-second 13-all draw with a largely second-string Lions team in wind-swept Cape Town.
“Winning one out of three Tests is very important for them and winning all three games is extremely important for us,” he said of Saturday’s game at Ellis Park.
“The Lions are not jaded. They have showed that they are enjoying touring, it’s been a spirited affair and they’ll be desperate to get a result.”
Muir tried to downplay the ongoing debate over Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha, who picked up bans of two and eight weeks respectively for eye-gouging and a dangerous charge during the second Test.
Botha will appeal his ban, with the Bok management hoping the hearing will come before Saturday, but the Burger issue has been shelved, according to Muir.
“The eye gouging incident has been dealt with.
It’s done and dusted.
“We’re in the process of preparing to win a very important Test match this weekend, important to us as a group of players and coaches, that’s all our focus is on at the moment.
“We realise it’s a tough game,” he added. “We want it physical but we know where the line is.
“There’s still a lot of sportsmanship out there. It’s still a very special game.
“As coaches and players we’re mates, incidents like this obviously cause a little bit of a rift but at the end of the day if you can sit down over a beer and be mates, that makes for a much better game.”
That said, coach Peter de Villiers, whose erratic comments have had SA Rugby officials scrabbling around in panic, admitted that he had not shaken hands with Lions head coach Ian McGeechan after the brutal second Test that saw five visiting players end up in hospital.
De Villiers, who has called up Sharks skipper Johann Muller to cover locks Danie Rossouw (head) and Andries Bekker (knee), said: “I have a good relationship with Ian McGeechan. I respect him as a coach. He has achieved a lot in his life.
“I didn’t see him after the Test [in Pretoria] and didn’t go looking for him because we were celebrating.”—AFP
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