Resurgent Boks send All Blacks a message
The Springboks are back.
New Zealand's greatest foe isn't getting carried away, but after releasing the shackles and breaking from tradition, the Boks have set up what will be the most anticipated game of the season, against the All Blacks in Soweto this week.
South Africa's 31-8 rout of Robbie Deans' injury-stricken Wallabies in Pretoria yesterday was easily their best performance of year. And it couldn't have come at a more pertinent time with the rampant world champions about to arrive.
Against Australia, the Boks embraced a rare mix of pace and power. Their brutal big men thundered forward and defended ruggedly throughout, allowing Cheetahs first five-eighth Johan Goosen's natural game to flourish in his maiden test start. Morne Steyn will struggle to reclaim his place now.
Goosen was a major factor in South Africa's flamboyant approach that resulted in the dominant five-tries-to-one win.
The 20-year-old isn't the complete product yet, but he confirmed his billing as the future No 10 for South Africa.
After some early nerves, and tears during the anthem, Goosen looked the goods outside Ruan Pienaar; the halfback's experience and calm direction another impressive element of this building Boks outfit.
Returning home after an arduous - and winless three-match road journey, the longest any side has to make in this tournament, Meyer's men showed they couldn't be happier to be home, at stronghold Loftus Versfeld.
It's a given Goosen and co won't get the same platform, licence to thrill or space to work with against the All Blacks, but they will take great confidence from walloping the woeful Wallabies, despite the visitors playing the final 10-minutes with 14 men, such was the extent of their injury crisis.
Meyer recognises the All Blacks are a different prospect. He spoke of their game-breaking back-three, as Julian Savea proved against the Pumas yesterday, but said the Boks will be ready to counter with a change of attacking attitude.
“New Zealand likes to run from deep,” Meyer said, noting his side had played into their hands by kicking too long, too often.
“We want to create space and quick ball, but they are a quality side. It's going to be difficult to create opportunities against them.
"After five or six years together they've got a solid defence with the same personnel," he said. We've got to be more patient and tactically astute to build phases. You're not just going to break the line.”
After an underwhelming campaign, the pressure is relieved and the Boks have a fresh mindset. They have nothing to lose.
That makes them dangerous.