De Villiers unconvinced by favourites tag
July 20, 2009
Peter De Villiers is hoping for an 80 minute performance from his Springboks on Saturday © Getty Images
South Africa coach Peter De Villiers has refused to accept that his Springboks side are favourites heading in to their opening Tri-Nations game against New Zealand in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
De Villiers' men are in confident mood after winning their recent Test series against the British & Irish Lions 2-1, while the All Blacks restored some belief in their own title credentials with their hard-fought 22-16 Bledisloe Cup win over Australia at Eden Park on Saturday.
The All Blacks endured several weeks of criticism following a stuttering series draw with France and unconvincing win over Italy, but De Villiers maintains that he was never fooled by their slump in form.
"We would love to be the underdogs," the Springboks' boss told Sapa. "We didn't write off the All Blacks. I don't know who wrote them off. We always knew that they were a good rugby side, as they showed on Saturday against the Wallabies.
"If you think you can pitch up for 60 or 70 minutes against the All Blacks then you're at the wrong place."
The All Blacks have landed in South Africa ahead of the game and are reporting only minor injury concerns to skipper Richie McCaw, centre Conrad Smith and lock Isaac Ross meaning that de Villiers' men will need to be at their best at Vodacom Park.
Centre Adi Jacobs is the major selection problem for the home side as he struggles with a shoulder problem, while his fellow centre Jaque Fourie is also being monitored as the coaching staff decide on a partner for the Munster-bound Jean de Villiers. Wynand Olivier has been called up from the Bulls' Currie Cup squad as extra cover.
"They are still working with Adi. He is basically the only player our medical staff are working with," De Villiers said. "Jaque Fourie also receives provisional treatment."
After a controversial series with the Lions, De Villiers refused to be drawn on the results of his recent SA Rugby review, with reports suggesting that chiefs had told him to tone down any religious or political aspects of his answers to the media.
"Nobody told me what I may do and what I may not do," he said. "The rating is according to me a personal matter. If anyone wants to find something out about it they can call SA Rugby, but for me it's a personal matter.
"It doesn't matter how good or bad I am. If I can do the job to the best of my ability that's all that matters to me."
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