South Africa captain Jean de Villiers believes his team can shrug off a long list of injuries to do well on their three-match European tour later this month.
The Springboks take on Ireland on Saturday next weekend, before facing Scotland seven days later and England on Nov. 24.
“We have come a long way as a team this year, but we are looking to improve and take our game to the next level and win all three matches on tour,” De Villiers told a news conference in Cape Town on Friday ahead of the squad’s departure. “We have a lot of youngsters because we are missing some injured players with a lot of experience. Guys like wing Bryan Habana, loose forwards Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger and hooker Tiaan Liebenberg.”
The Springboks are not the only team suffering from the loss of key players — Ireland will be without captain and inspirational center Brian O’Driscoll.
“I have huge respect for Brian, he is a fantastic player and they will miss his leadership,” De Villiers said. “But Ireland are a quality side. It is never easy playing a test match over there.”
De Villiers has been injured himself and had to miss last week’s Currie Cup final.
“I’m getting better. I’m not 100 percent yet, but if all goes according to plan with the rehabilitation, I should be ready for the Ireland match,” he said. “We have lost three out of the last four matches against Ireland and it is something we want to improve on.”
De Villiers said conceding “soft tries” was his biggest concern as that had cost his team the chance of victory over New Zealand and Australia during the recent Rugby Championship tournament.
“We certainly want to improve our decisionmaking, especially with the conditions over there, but we will be facing different teams with different tactics, so we will need to be spot on with our planning and execution,” he added.
The Springboks have not completed a clean sweep of victories in the northern hemisphere since 2008, when they beat Scotland and Wales, before ending the tour with a thumping victory over England at Twickenham.