PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT:  Springbok captain Jean de Villiers and wing Bryan Habana lead the way as the national team arrive for a training session at Grey  High School in Port Elizabeth yesterday ahead of their final Test against England on Saturday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Springbok captain Jean de Villiers and wing Bryan Habana lead the way as the national team arrive for a training session at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth yesterday ahead of their final Test against England on Saturday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

FORMER Springbok locks Victor Matfield and Johan Ackermann and wing Ray Mordt yesterday rallied behind the Boks and coach Heyneke Meyer after they secured the series victory against England before the final Test, and said they were on the right track to world domination.

The three veterans spoke highly of the young Boks who made their Test debuts in the past two weeks and said Meyer had done well to get the balance right between experience and youth in the squad.

But while Matfield and Ackermann lauded the Boks' style of play, which involves placing the opposition under pressure in the set pieces and using their big ball carriers to power their way over the advantage line, Mordt believed the team could play a more complete brand of rugby if they were to spread the ball to the wings more often.

The Springboks won the opening Test in Durban 22-17 and followed that up with a 36-27 victory in the second Test in Johannesburg.

Commenting on the progress made by the Springboks under Meyer, Matfield said: "The team has played fantastic rugby in the last two weeks, and the first half last Saturday was particularly good. That performance could serve as a blueprint for the way the team should play."

The legendary Bok line-out ace was equally complimentary on the speed at which Meyer's team have gelled since gathering in Durban a little over two weeks ago and said the coach had selected a good balance of players. "Heyneke has done very well with the Boks," said Matfield. "And the longer the team plays together, the better they will become.

"What Heyneke also adds to the team is that he focuses a lot on the players' mental condition and that is a huge positive. Looking at the make-up of the team, Heyneke has shown that if you are good enough to play, age is not a factor and the young players have combined well with the experienced players in the team."

Ackermann shared Matfield's excitement about the potential of Meyer's team and said: "It is exciting to see what is happening in the Bok team. One can see that the team is motivated and that there is a positive vibe in the squad.

"That, combined with their immense potential, means that they could become a massive force. Their pack, in particular, has been doing well and it is good to see the new locks, Juandré Kruger and Eben Etzebeth, making their mark. They are talented players with great skills and they have bright futures."

Mordt was equally positive about the team's abilities under Meyer's guidance and said: "They are on the right track and there is no doubt they will grow as a team. It is pleasing that Heyneke has started off his term on a winning note. That will give him a lot more confidence going forward.

"But the team needs to get the balance right between taking the ball up field and spreading it wide. There were times last Saturday when there was space out wide but the forwards opted to take the ball up instead. If the team gets that right, they will play complete rugby."

However, Mordt questioned Meyer's substitutions last Saturday and said the decision to clear his bench was unnecessary and placed pressure on the team, although he conceded that a few substitutions were for injuries.

Mordt's other concern was that the team could battle in the tougher Rugby Championship without a specialist fetcher, particularly against Australia and New Zealand. He said Meyer should consider selecting Heinrich Brüssow for that series.

n Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen was called up to the Bok squad yesterday to provide cover, as fullback Pat Lambie faces a race against time to recover from an ankle injury.

A decision on the availability of Lambie and flank Willem Alberts, who is nursing a knee injury, will be made tomorrow. Should Alberts be ruled out, Bulls flank Jacques Potgieter could make his Test debut.

isaacsz@bdfm.co.za