Pretorius: Nations Cup an eye-opener

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 20 June 2007
 Pretorius: Nations Cup an eye-opener
Jaco Pretorius on the attack against Romania in the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest Photo: Bogdan Iorga

A member of the Emerging Springboks side that lifted the IRB Nations Cup trophy in the Romanian capital Bucharest last weekend, Jaco Pretorius is under no illusions as to the importance of the tournament for all six teams that took part.

The centre openly admitted to having his eyes opened to the potential that exists in the Georgia and Romania national sides in particular, having seen both up close in matches the Emerging Springboks won 24-7 and 61-7 respectively.

However Pretorius, the former South Africa sevens captain whose only Springbok cap came against Ireland at Lansdowne Road last November, was also quick to point out the benefits that the IRB Nations Cup also provided to his own country's national side.

"Georgia actually shocked us quite a bit, a lot of people expected that we were going to give them 50 points and it definitely didn't happen," Pretorius told Total Rugby Radio from South Africa.

Eyes opened by Georgians

"They were very, very physical and they dominated at ruck time and driving and mauling and in those aspects of the game they really dominated. That was a definite eye opener for us to see that for sure these guys, they did step up a level.

"But I think it made quite a huge impact to those other nations as well, especially to the Romanian Rugby Union for a couple of top quality sides to play against them leading up the World Cup.

"I think they [Romania] learned quite a lot from South Africa and Argentina and from a couple of the other sides and I think that definitely will help them in the future. You could see how they definitely improved during the tournament and I think in beating Namibia at the end.

"I think we were definitely very happy that we were part of the whole event. It was a well organised tournament and definitely something that I think must carry on year in year out. It was an awesome experience and winning it was just a great experience."

Another chance to impress

Pretorius added: "The whole plan behind the Emerging Springboks was to get game time for a couple of the players that are kind of on the brink of making the World Cup squad and I think that was the whole reason behind sending a good quality side there.

"People like Kabamba Floors, Bevin Fortuin and Tonderai Chavhanga, a couple of guys who have been with the Springbok group and then just needed some game time while the Tri Nations is on and who maybe just didn't get the nod to play in the Tri Nations here.

"I think that was the whole reasoning behind the Emerging Springboks team and it was just great timing that we could play international rugby in this time."

For Pretorius and the rest of the Emerging Springboks squad coached by Pieter de Villiers, the chance to play against a side like Argentina A in the IRB Nations Cup was another good test and one that would also decide the champions on the final day.

Finding their rhythm

"Playing against Argentina you always know that it is going to be quite intense and quite a high paced game. I mean they are also physical and like to dominate at ruck time. I have known that from the Sevens, they are always good on the ground and good in spoiling your ball and that was exactly what happened," added the 27-year-old.

"We struggled to find rhythm and that I think was the reason why the half time score was that low [10-6 to Argentina A] because we couldn't get momentum and we couldn't finish and they just made the ball very slow.

"When we found our rhythm and when we played with a bit of urgency and we could spread the ball and play our game plan, that is when luckily we broke through and scored a couple of tries."

Both of these tries came from wing Chavhanga, who scored six tries in his only Springbok Test to date against Uruguay back in 2005, with fly half Peter Grant kicking 14 points as the Emerging Springboks were crowned champions with a 24-10 victory.

World Cup dreams

Pretorius now hopes that some of those involved in the IRB Nations Cup success in Romania can force their way into South Africa's squad for Rugby World Cup 2007, but if not his one big wish is for the Springboks to repeat their success in 1995.

"It is a big squad and definitely leading up to the World Cup it is every players' dream to be part of that and hopefully there was a good purpose in sending us to the Nations Cup and hopefully there was some good feedback for some of the players," added Pretorius.

"And that the game time they had, it definitely did help and puts them into one of the other warm up games before the World Cup and maybe we can make the squad.

"It is a big squad and a lot of good rugby players, but hopefully as long as we get our top 30 going to the World Cup and we can perform there and win then everybody would be happy in our country."