The Springboks will address the matter of the Millennium Stadium roof as soon as the tour squad arrives in Cardiff on Saturday.
It became clear at Friday afternoon’s pre-departure press conference that the Springbok coach Peter de Villiers did not know if the retractable roof at the Millennium Stadium, where the Test against Wales will be played, will be open or closed for the November 8 clash. Both De Villiers and manager Arthob Petersen said the matter will be resolved at a meeting with the Welsh next week.
However, two weeks ago the WRU Group chief executive Roger Lewis told the Welsh media that tickets (74 500) for the match had been sold out and that the roof will be closed.
At the time Wales coach Warren Gatland responded to the news that the roof will be closed: “The players and coaches are excited about taking them (the Boks) on at a full Millennium Stadium with a closed roof. It is a good chance for us to take them on our own soil and that is what we are looking forward to doing.”
Obviously, the Wales’ decision to play with the roof closed has not yet been conveyed to the South African camp.
De Villiers said after a week in camp the players had regained their sense of urgency but management had not spent much time on game plans. “We’ve got the intensity back in the squad which is very pleasing,” said De Villiers. “We’ll have to go into finer details next week and I’m sure that will help iron out certain issues.
“But I’m excited and things are looking good. I’m pleased with the way the guys regrouped. It was important that we got the cohesion back in the side, and this week was all about the work ethic back in the side.
“All the players are back on the same level on several fronts and that’s a good thing because some of them took a battering in the Currie Cup final.”
De Villiers felt too much fuss was made about the decision to play Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf on tour. “The matter of Ruan is an illusion. He’s got what it takes,” said De Villiers, adding that the side’s coaching staff will monitor scrummaging sessions very closely ahead of the Wales Test.
Smit did not attend the press conference as he was away in Durban where he was attending to personal business.
“John (Smit) had a personal problem which I thought was serious enough to allow him to go home,” said De Villiers. “I did not want him to go on tour with the problem because its worse to handle it then. “We’ve got a very capable leader in John and it’s important that he attends to personal matters when necessary.”
The Springbok vice-captain Victor Matfield said the team was intent on keeping the momentum which was gained when the team last played against Australia at the end of August.
“It’s really been exciting getting back into the Bok squad,” said Matfield. “I can say I’ve been more at home in the national squad than in my provincial squad. This week we’ve had time to work extra details and next week there’s some hard work waiting for us.”
The Springboks will fly out from Johannesburg on Friday night to London where they’ll arrive on Saturday.
The first of three Tests will be against Wales, followed by the Murrayfield date against Scotland on November 15 and finally against England at Twickenham on November 22.