CAPE TOWN // South Africa must make better use of possession and territory when they face Australia in their penultimate Rugby Championship match at Newlands on Saturday, captain Jean de Villiers said.
De Villiers lamented his side’s inability to take their chances in successive narrow defeats in Australia and New Zealand in the competition that leaves their title hopes hanging by a thread.
South Africa were able to put their opponents under pressure in their own 22 but battled to turn those opportunities into points.
“We would like to capitalise more. It is not about time spent in your opponent’s half, it’s what you do with that possession,” De Villiers said yesterday.
“The last six minutes against the All Blacks we were in their 22 but could not capitalise on it. For us, it’s about assessing the situation, getting ball into space and making the right decisions, and that is what we want to see.”
South Africa might have been top of the table had they pulled off those victories on the road but instead trail leaders New Zealand by six points and are on the verge of elimination.
“It’s frustrating,” De Villiers said. “We have tried to take the positives out of it, look at the games, break them down, see what we can change, what can we do better. The margins were just so small in those Tests.
“Now we must make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. We know what our strengths are and we need to play for that.”
As has been the talk all week from both camps, De Villiers expects the teams to run the ball as much as possible, especially as they each need a bonus-point win to retain their chances in the four-nation competition.
After playing their past three games in the wet, De Villiers hopes for a fast track. “It will be nice if it’s dry, you always want the ball to be dry so you can throw it about a bit,” he said. “Having said that, Newlands can get slippery in the evening anyway.”
The Springboks captain will be playing his 101st Test alongside rookie blindside flank Teboho "Oupa" Mohoje, who will be making his first start.
De Villiers dismissed suggestions in the South African media that Mohoje, picked ahead of veteran Schalk Burger, was not there on merit.
“He is an unbelievable guy, a great rugby player, and he fully deserves his place in the side,” De Villiers said. “We are way past the days of judging players by their colour. We treat each other with respect. We play for each other and care for each other as a team.”
The centre has hinted he will retire from international rugby after the 2015 World Cup, so today’s match is likely to be his final Test at his home stadium.
“It could be the last game I play at Newlands with the Boks so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my favourite ground in the world,” he said.
All Blacks to give Barrett and Harris a chance
New Zealand can seal their third successive title in The Rugby Championship with a bonus-point victory over Argentina in La Plata on Saturday, but the long-term focus for the holders will be on the performances of fly-half Beauden Barrett and rookie hooker Nathan Harris.
An extra-point win by scoring four or more tries, something the All Blacks have accomplished in their two previous Rugby Championship clashes in Argentina, will ensure they clinch the title before their final showdown against South Africa in Johannesburg on October 4.
Barrett will make just his second start at fly-half, three weeks after his first, against Argentina, when he impressed with his game management, distribution, running and tactical kicking but had a poor penalty kicking performance and missed four shots at goal.
It was expected he would again back up Aaron Cruden before the Waikato Chiefs playmaker was dumped for the final two matches of the competition after he missed the flight to Argentina following a night out drinking.
The inclusion of Harris could help coach Steve Hansen in his search for a third hooker, ahead of the Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia, after Andrew Hore retired last year.
Harris, 22, is expected to make his debut off the bench today after Dane Coles was released from the squad to return to New Zealand for the birth of his first child.
How Harris stands up to the best scrum in the world and cements his role at the line-out, breakdown and in open play will give Hansen an indication of whether or not he has answered his most vexing question less than a year out from the World Cup.
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