JOHANNESBURG – The pain of Auckland is now behind the Springboks and they are ready to move on and confront the immediate challenge that lies in their path in the quest for Castle Lager Rugby Championship glory.
So said vice-captain Adriaan Strauss when he was interviewed while the Boks were attending the opening of The Springbok Experience, the new interactive museum situated at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront that the South African Rugby Union opened for the first time as the noon gun sounded from Signal Hill on Heritage Day.
The circumstances of the 29-15 defeat at Eden Park still rankle with many South African fans, and listening to rugby conversations as test match fever starts to build in Cape Town, it is clear that many people still have a sour taste in their mouths at the hand that referee Romaine Poite played in ending what had been a nine-game unbeaten run for Jean de Villiers’ team.
However, the Boks know that there is no point in looking back, and according to Strauss, the entire focus this week has been to look forward and to forget about what happened in the last match of what was otherwise a highly successful overseas leg to their 2013 campaign.
“I must say I thought captain Jean de Villiers and coach Heyneke Meyer handled the situation really well after that defeat,” said Strauss as he reflected back on Auckland.
“We were very disappointed with the loss and if we had allowed it to get to us too much it could have become a negative. But we resolved that we needed to move on, that we needed to look forward, and we have done that. We have left Eden Park behind us now and there is no need for us to look back at what happened there.
“What is done is done. The fact is that we are still in the Rugby Championship, we still have a chance of winning it, and while it will be tough, we are going to go all out to do that. We have got to look forward, and that is what we are doing. The most important match for us is the one we are playing this coming Saturday.”
The Boks need to win with a bonus point to ensure that the following week’s clash against the All Blacks in Johannesburg is a realistic decider, but as Meyer did the previous day, Strauss played down the importance of a full house of log points.
Or, to put it more accurately, he stressed that the Boks would not be going onto the field with the intention of chasing the bonus point from the first minute.
“We want to stick to the structures and the way we want to play. The game may open up later, and then we can perhaps worry about the bonus point, but we know we have to do the basics well.
"In our game against them in Brisbane that is what we did and it worked. Our main focus this week is to win, and then if it is on for us to do so later on, then we will chase the bonus point.”
Strauss is the vice-captain when he plays, which he is expected to do on Saturday as a rotation policy was agreed between the two hookers, Strauss and Bismarck du Plessis, at the start of the Rugby Championship.
According to the plan, Strauss would play the two matches against Argentina and this one, and Du Plessis would start in Brisbane, Auckland and Ellis Park.
Although Du Plessis did train at hooker for most of the Monday afternoon session where some media were present, sources close to the camp have confirmed that Meyer will be sticking with the plan on Saturday.
Whatever the case though, Strauss reckons the competition between him and Du Plessis is good for the Boks, and that they are fighting for the same cause on match day.
“We do compete with each other and we do both want to play in the starting position, but we are playing for the same goal, which is the success of the Springboks, so whether he starts or I start we both give our best in whatever task we are given,” said Strauss.
“I will do whatever I can for the good of the Boks, and it is the same with Bissie. We respect each other and we play for the same cause.
"I thought Bismarck played a massive game before he was carded at Eden Park, and if you consider how he has played so soon after coming back from injury, his performances are phenomenal. But that inspires me to play better too. In the end it’s good for the Boks.”
Strauss said that the visit to The Springbok Experience had been humbling in that it reminded the players of the tradition that they were part of, and what had come before them.
“It was great to see some of the older ex-captains, and it gave me a strange feeling to see the old videos, it was a bit like when you first become a Springbok.
"We all grew up with the Springbok and wanting to be Springboks and are aware of the proud tradition and what we mean to the millions who support us. Being here and seeing how passionate everyone is, is really great.”
Could it provide extra motivation for Saturday? We will only know at 5pm on Saturday afternoon, but one thing is sure: the lines of people filing into the venue spoke volumes for the popularity of the Springbok brand, and the journalists who walked through the museum before it opened will vouch that it is quite unlike any other museum you will experience in South Africa.
It will be open between 10am and 6pm every day from Wednesday, with the only exception being Christmas Day. Entrance fee is R50 for adults and R30 for scholars, with very young children being admitted free of charge. – SuperSport