England v South Africa
Rankings slip hurt us - Smit
November 21, 2008
Springboks skipper John Smit talks to press in London on Thursday © Getty Images
South Africa captain John Smit admits losing the number one spot in the world rankings has been the biggest disappointment this season.
The Springboks won the World Cup a year ago but have since failed to replicate that form and a disappointing performance at the Tri-Nations meant they were overtaken by New Zealand in the rankings. A mouthwatering season-ending clash with England at Twickenham awaits South Africa tomorrow, and Smit hopes his side live up to expectations.
"Considering all that's been done under the new coach and new management team and certainly the pressure of playing under the world champion label, the biggest disappointment, coming from the games we should have won, was losing the number one tag in the world," said Smit.
"We'll be using that as something to get back to. Most critics would ask where you go when you've won the World Cup. There's only one way. So the standards to maintain are quite difficult. Every weekend we are judged. We've won two out of two (on the European tour) and we're still under pressure because we're a nation that puts very high standards on the kind of rugby we play.
"So this game, as any other game, will define where we are at the moment."
The Springboks have won their last five encounters against England, although their record at Twickenham is far less impressive. The tourists won 25-14 there two years ago but that was the first time since 1997.
"This weekend means a lot to the guys," added Smit. "The last time we won here was with quite a young team so a lot of the guys haven't won at Twickenham and there is a lot of desire to tick that box. (England) look to play positive rugby. They've got a good pack that does the hard work and I think when they start establishing some momentum their role players - nine, 10 and 11 - will flourish."
Asked what he knew of England's danger man, fly-half Danny Cipriani, Smit added: "We've seen a bit of him in the Heineken Cup last year and now in these internationals. He's still young and finding his feet and he's got a difficult job of filling Jonny's (Wilkinson) boots."