England v South Africa
De Villiers reveals motivational concerns
November 17, 2008
De Villiers talks to the media in London ahead of the Springboks' clash with England at Twickenham this weekend © Getty Images
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has admitted his players are struggling to motivate themselves for Saturday's clash with England at Twickenham.
It is the last Test of the year for the Springboks, who have had a mediocre season since winning the World Cup a year ago, and De Villiers said some players' thoughts are already turning to their holidays. That sort of attitude might alarm many coaches, particularly given that Saturday's labouring 14-10 win over Scotland was the latest in a series of under-par performances since being crowned world champions, but De Villiers claimed it is a natural reaction.
"Sometimes it's very, very difficult to motivate yourself to stand up and just go on and on and on," he told reporters. "It's always the biggest challenge in rugby to get motivated. We're talking from the players' point of view. These guys play around the clock against all these big nations.
"Physically they're trained to deal with it but there's a mental fatigue that nobody sees. They're thinking `five days more and then I can go back to my family'. Fatigue is taking its toll. I think for the sake of the players I'm so glad the year's done. You look where we started last year in November. The players had three weeks off and then went straight into Super 14 and then it goes on and on and on. All of these guys played Currie Cup too.
"Five days more and then it's the end of the year. It's going to be very difficult. I just hope they uplift themselves a little (on Saturday) to the level we expect."
De Villiers is wary of England, who he believes will want to avenge the 15-6 defeat in the World Cup final last autumn. Martin Johnson's men were also beaten 28-14 by Australia at the weekend, although De Villiers was impressed with the performance.
"They played really good," he said. "I think the few penalties they gave away in the early stages of the game put them on the back foot. They were great and controlled the conditions much better than the scoreline indicates. I was really impressed with some individual players too.
"The half-backs played exceptionally well and I think the full-back (Delon Armitage) is someone who, if you don't deal with him correctly, will nail you. There aren't a lot of weaknesses in the England side. And any game where you play the world champions gives you extra motivation. We are always under pressure in that respect."
Another cause for concern for De Villiers is that his forward line has been hit by injuries to hooker Bismarck Du Plessis and prop Guthro Steenkamp. Scrum-half Fourie Du Preez is already out with a thigh strain, while Bryan Habana and Brian Mujati both suffered knocks on Saturday but should be fit to face England.
"On the weekend it was a battleground out there and we picked up a lot of injuries," said team doctor Craig Roberts. "The big one was Bismarck Du Plessis who overstretched his hamstring and has a grade two strain and will be ruled out this weekend. The other one was Guthro Steenkamp who twisted his ankle in a tackle. He's got quite a nasty sprain and will be ruled out this weekend as well."