South Africa’s depth was tested in their 55-6 demolition of Scotland on Saturday in Port Elizabeth and came through with flying colours.
The most encouraging part was that old campaigners played as if they were at the peak of their careers, while the young Turks performed like seasoned veterans in their eight-try romp. Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer on Saturday expressed his satisfaction with the depth he had developed since taking the reins in 2012.
“Three years ago we started with some youngsters and as we suffered injuries we brought some of the older players back into the side,” Meyer said. “A lot of them played brilliantly tonight [Saturday], we asked for a big performance from a guy like JP Pietersen but it is also great that when we had injuries again the youngsters came through.
“We have an unbelievable 40 players that we can pick from so I am really happy with the guys coming through and I think the future looks bright.” Scotland coach Vern Cotter said his team did not start well while they also conceded too many penalties.
Although Cotter bemoaned the scoreline, he believed his charges could take some lessons from the match. “We just have to repeat doing the good things and if we don’t offer as many opportunities to the opposition as we did today we can shift in the right direction,” Cotter said.
‘Proud of the guys’
Meyer said he had asked his charges for a strong performance following their hard-fought victory over Wales in Mbombela a week ago. That they did in emphatic style as almost every player contributed to a carnival of tries at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. “I’m really proud of the guys – the message the whole week was that we have to come back after last week although I thought we played well last weekend and Wales were brilliant but we said we have to come back,” Meyer said.
“We wanted to end it off with a performance that can make the country and the team proud before the Rugby Championship. “We obviously attacked well but the thing that stood out is that we didn’t concede any tries and most other teams, especially at the end, would probably have conceded a try because the Scots kept on firing and we kept them out.”
It was a baptism of fire for flyhalf Handre Pollard, who instilled confidence that he had the right temperament to make it at this level. He looked comfortable, tucked in between stalwart Fourie du Preez and Jan Serfontein, who is growing in stature with every game, on his outside.
“We needed a flyhalf to stand up especially a young flyhalf, and he [Pollard] was awesome when he was on the front foot, he has a mature head on his shoulder and I thought he really played well,” Meyer said of Pollard’s debut.
“I am so proud of him and Jan Serfontein because way back he struggled with defence and now three weeks in a row he put in some of the biggest tackles.
“I thought he was awesome on defence especially with a youngster on his inside and I thought that when Fourie went off we lost a lot of rhythm but suddenly we have a very young backline.”
Lack of depth
While Pollard could be the answer to the national side’s lack of depth at the number-10 position, Meyer was still having sleepless nights over an understudy to Du Preez. To add to his worries, Du Preez suffered an ankle injury 30 minutes into the clash, and Meyer admitted that he was concerned about his availability for the Rugby Championship.
“I am very worried about Fourie and I think he is still the best scrumhalf in the world and you could just see that Handre looked brilliant next to him,” Meyer said. “The way he gives input on attack, he controls the game, his kicking game as well, so I am really worried.
“There is a big concern there and just really hope he will be ready for the Rugby Championship, but we still have two other nines.” While the Springboks won all four matches of the Incoming Series against the World XV, Wales and Scotland, they will face a tougher challenge in the Rugby Championship. Meyer expressed the hope that the players will be managed well when they return to their franchises and clubs as he would be be hoping to field his strongest possible side for the four-nation series. – Sapa