JOHANNESBURG // Peter de Villiers wants his South African team to give their supporters something to cheer about today as they look to get their first points on the board in their beleaguered Tri Nations campaign. The world champions and last year's tournament winners have struggled, losing all three games they have played, and failing to score even a bonus point.
Today's match against New Zealand, which will be the first time that the Springboks play at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, the stadium that hosted the football World Cup final last month, has been earmarked by De Villiers, the South African coach, has a chance to redeem themselves in front of their own fans. "We owe our supporters a big one," he said. De Villiers is confident that his men will put in a more competitive showing and claimed that a change of playing style and hierarchy in South Africa's domestic rugby teams was to blame for their poor showings.
"Problems have been identified and small adjustments made," he said. "We got caught up in two styles of play. When [the Pretoria] Bulls and [the Natal] Sharks dominated the team they had a similar style. Now the Bulls and [the Cape Town] Stormers dominate and things are not the same. "Perhaps it was taken for granted that everyone was on the same page and we did not find or have the necessary time to make sure. We have solved that problem," said De Villiers.
The coach has made seven changes from the team that lost to Australia in Brisbane earlier this month, with Francois Hougaard, the scrum-half, and Flip van der Merwe, the lock, both getting their first starts. John Smit, the South African captain, will pick up his 100th cap for his country when he leads the team out today. De Villiers stressed he did not want to hear talk of "revenge" against the All Blacks, who need extend their winning run by six more triumphs to overtake Lithuania and establish a record for consecutive victories. Lithuania won their 18th international game in row in April this year.
"Revenge makes you bitter inside. We must show character as a team and not seek revenge. We know what we are capable of and what we must do to become the best in the world," De Villiers added. While the Boks seek remedies, the All Blacks are not resting on the laurels after some scintillating running rugby that has seen them score 132 points in four Tri Nations outings and leave them only requiring a point from today's match-up to win the championship for a 10th time.
Richie McCaw, the New Zealand captain, confirmed his team had no intention of easing up despite their dominant position. "Things are starting to come through with a group of guys who all contribute, especially those who have been around a while. And we are not complacent - there are a lot of areas for improvement," he said. * Agency France Presse