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Fri Apr 18 03:30:10 SAST 2014

Meyer faces first away test

LIAM DEL CARME in Mendoza | 22 August, 2012 07:240 Comments
Bryan Habana
Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

EVEN if the All Blacks stole the march on them by winning in Sydney while they fluffed their lines in Cape Town, the Boks' scramble for bonus points would not start any time soon.

It will require them to, at times, play a game to which they are ill-suited, and coach Heyneke Meyer is not about to expose his players to what they are unaccustomed.

"We need to stay focused on our own race. It was a big away win for New Zealand. That obviously puts pressure on us," said Meyer.

The Boks' failure to score four tries at Newlands means they have to up the ante elsewhere. That puts into sharper focus their performance here against the Pumas on Saturday.

"This is a very big game for us. This is the most important game of the year [so far] for us," Meyer said.

"Bonus points at home are always important. If you are in a position to get a bonus point you need to get it. We just want to win every game we can and bonus points will take care of themselves," he said.

Saturday's Four Nations test carries extra significance for the coach because it is his first away assignment.

"It is always difficult playing away. The Pumas will be passionate. They have proved over the last few years that they are a very difficult side to beat at home.

"We weren't happy with our performance last Saturday. We need to improve because they'll improve."

A debilitating injury list has meant Meyer has had to deal with a rapidly changing squad.

"Of the pack that played at the World Cup [team that started that ill-fated quarterfinal] only Jannie du Plessis is left. Three locks have left South Africa and six loose forwards are injured. It's a new pack. It's an inexperienced pack."

Extended commitments in Super 15 and the Four Nations mean injuries are unavoidable.

"At least we are building a big base of players. Our depth is getting game time in the first year," he said.

Privately, though, Meyer must be cursing. He is all about the here and now - forever underlining the significance of the most immediate assignment.

Bryan Habana and Andries Bekker, who injured ankles in the Newlands test, sat out training yesterday and a decision on their availability will be made later this week. Captain Jean de Villiers also sat out part of the session and had treatment to his upper left leg.

Meanwhile, Bismarck du Plessis had surgery on ligaments in his right knee yesterday. It was confirmed that he will be out for up to eight months.

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