'Wales game will define us this year‚' says Bok Lood de Jager
He stopped short of saying all of the Springboks’ toil this year will be defined by the result of their clash against Wales on Saturday‚ but from his lofty perch Lood de Jager came pretty close.
“I think in a way the game will define us this year‚” the strapping second rower suggested.
“It is our last game for the next six months. We want to end it off well. We always go into a year wanting to win every game.
“One or two results didn’t go our way this year. As a team we fought every minute of each game. We didn’t always get the result but we will be pleased if we get the result on Saturday.”
The Boks have suffered just three defeats this year‚ two of which you might recall‚ were abject failures against the All Blacks in Albany and Ireland in Dublin. But they also drew two matches against the Wallabies.
That may tip the scales in the way they are judged.
Still‚ it is an improvement on last year. Putting to bed the pain of what was felt then has fueled the Boks’ this year.
“We were utterly disappointed with last year‚” De Jager stressed. “We needed to be better on and off the field. This year was about restoring pride.
“Last year we were not up to standard and not up to the history of Springbok rugby. We needed to improve that. I think if we get a good result on Saturday we can be reasonably pleased with the year.”
If the supporters haven’t quite found restitution in the Bok results this year‚ the sentiment is keenly felt within the camp.
After the debacle in Dublin the team have dug deep‚ particularly in the boiler room.
“As a pack we have been pleased with our performances over the last two weeks‚” said De Jager about the wins over France and Italy. “We worked hard and we focused on ourselves.”
This weekend’s clash brings a fresh challenge. While the Boks were able to knuckle down when they needed to in Paris and Padua‚ they will also need to be street smart in the Principality Stadium.
De Jager is desperate not to fall for the dark charms of Wales captain Alun Wynn-Jones.
“They have one or two experienced guys. We’ve reviewed last year’s defeat against Wales. There are one or two areas in which we can improve.
“Alun is very smart‚ he bends the rules a bit and gets away with a lot of it. He’s a very good player. I rate him highly. I think it will be a good challenge.”
De Jager did not want to specify what nefarious activity Wynn-Jones might have involved himself in.
“Let me just say he’s a smart player. He gets away with one or two things. I won’t be speaking to the referee. I’m not the captain. I’ll just do my job.”