Meyer praises young Boks as Botha retires

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and his captain jean de Villiers have both praised their new young players performance against Italy in Padova after Bakkies Botha had announced his retirement.

Botha announced after the Springboks match against Italy that he was hanging up his international boots after making his debut 12 years ago. He will however continue to play for Toulon in France.

The Springboks scored three tries to nil against Italy, with Coenie Oosthuizen, Cobus Reinach and Bryan Habana crossing the Italians’ try-line.

Pat Lambie added a penalty goal to lift him to 100 Test points and Handré Pollard kicked two conversions.

It was the first time since June 2008 that the Springboks had managed to keep Italy from scoring a try and the first time ever the Azzurri failed to cross the South African try-line in a Test in front of their home fans.

“I’m very happy with the result and fact that we didn’t concede any tries and no points in the second half,” said Meyer.

“I’ll always prefer a try-count of 3-0 instead of 5-3.”

The Springbok coach was also full of praise for a number of lesser experienced players who started at the Stadio Euganeo, in Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen and Johan Goosen, as well as the two Test debutants, Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys.

“I’m very proud of the way in which they came through, especially in the scrums, where Trevor, in his first start, Coenie and Julian were part of a dominant performance against a very good Italian scrum,” said Meyer.

“The same goes for Johan, playing at fullback in a Test for the first time, while I thought Nizaam made a big impact when he came on – he had a massive hand in Cobus’ try which was great to see.

“It was always going to be a scrappy affair and it’s never easy playing away from home against a very passionate Italian side. The Italians had a proper go and they deserve a lot of credit for their performance. But our guys stuck to their guns and pulled it through when it mattered most.”

Meyer also paid tribute to Bakkies Botha, who announced his retirement from international rugby shortly after the Test.

“Bakkies will go down in history as one of the greatest Springboks of all time,” said Meyer of the 85-times capped lock forward. “He is a giant on the field and off it and never gave an inch, which personifies what Springbok rugby is all about.

“I’ve coached him for a very long time and while I’m immensely very proud of the player he’s become, I’m even more proud of the man Bakkies has become. I’ll forever be very proud of having been his coach.”

De Villiers was just as satisfied with the result and said,”We put in a big performance against a fired up team and while there is always room for improvement, I thought we played some great rugby at times.

“We have one week left in our season and everyone involved knows the Test against Wales in Cardiff next weekend will be a massive challenge – we’ll be going all out to finish 2014 on a high.”

De Villiers added that emotions ran high in the Springboks’ change room when Botha broke the news of his international retirement to the touring squad.

“We made our debut for South Africa together against France in Marseille in 2002 and it’s been a massive honour to play with a Springbok legend for 12 years. “

“He always put his body on the line for the jersey and it’s with a heavy heart that we said our goodbyes to a giant of SA rugby.”

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