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Momentum The Key For Springboks

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Momentum The Key For Springboks

Wellington, July 14 NZPA - How South Africa shake off their Lions hangover will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this year's Tri-Nations.

Having thrown all their emotion and resources into beating the British and Irish Lions, something they managed 2-1 in a closer series than many predicted, the world champion Springboks must quickly brace for their more familiar Australasian sparring partners.

Bookmakers have installed them as competition favourites, boosted by a good draw which has their first three games at home -- admittedly in the space of three weeks.

To win all three will require an adjustment in style from what was a muscular Lions challenge to the greater pace of the All Blacks and Wallabies.

Also, the dizzying hype of the Lions series must be exorcised, something the 1997 Springboks couldn't do, managing just one win in the subsequent Tri-Nations.

Likewise, the 2005 All Blacks were slow to adjust from their blitzing of the Lions, losing the first Tri-Nations test against South Africa before going on to claim the crown in exactly the same manner as the 2001 Wallabies.

Rugby in the Republic is still on a high following the Bulls' irrepressible march to the Super 14 title, the men in blue from Pretoria playing a brand of rugby that left their New Zealand playoff opponents grasping and gasping.

Springboks coach Peter de Villiers, criticised for his press conference rantings during the Lions series, is also under the pump in some quarters to include a handful more Bulls players in the tests against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein on July 25 and Durban on August 1.

De Villiers has been happy to stick largely with the Springboks team who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup nearly two years ago.

A core of experienced forwards is missing only flanker Schalk Burger while he serves a suspension for eye-gouging.

His replacement, Heinrich Brussouw, was a superior performer during the Super 14 anyway and gives them a lightweight but effective breakdown weapon not commonly found in Springboks packs.

Locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha remain hugely influential along with flanker Juan Smith while captain John Smit has barely skipped a beat in shifting from hooker to prop, working well in tandem with destructive loosehead Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira.

And watch out if dynamic No 8 Pierre Spies starts transferring his dynamic Super 14 form onto the test stage.

Halfback Fourie Du Preez is the team's key playmaker, at the heart of a backline that features Jean de Villiers, Francois Steyn and Bryan Habana as the pick of a legion of match winners.


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