Springboks’ revival on cards: Mtawarira

Tendai Mtawarira at a training session yesterday, in preparation for the Super Rugby match pitting the Sharks against the Sunwolves tomorrow.
Tendai Mtawarira at a training session yesterday, in preparation for the Super Rugby match pitting the Sharks against the Sunwolves tomorrow.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

South Africa slump to world No. 7 after run of losses, but Sharks prop hopes for turnaround

They may have narrowly avoided the England-France-Argentina pool touted as the Group of Death in last week's 2019 Rugby World Cup draw, but South Africa's national rugby union side are still mired in poor form.

The Springboks have lost four out of their past five Test matches and have fallen to No. 7 in the world, their lowest ranking ever.

Yet there is hope of better times ahead for the two-time world champions, said prop Tendai Mtawarira, 31, who also plays for Super Rugby South African club Sharks.

He said: "Last year was obviously not a good season for us, but this year is an opportunity for us to get back where we used to be."

He played in last October's 15-57 loss to New Zealand - the Springboks' biggest loss to their fierce rivals - and said the team were rebuilding after the retirement of several key players.

Mtawarira is in Singapore for the Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves at the National Stadium tomorrow. He said: "There were a lot of inconsistencies and the new coach, Allister Coetzee, was appointed very late as well.

"There were also a lot of injuries, and the (fact that we had an) inexperienced and young squad added to our bad performances.

HIGH PRAISE

The Sunwolves are well coached and they're playing good rugby. Their breakdown is fantastic and I feel that theirs is one of the best in Super Rugby.

ROBERT DU PREEZ, Sharks head coach, on tomorrow's Super Rugby opponents.

"I think the coach didn't have the right tools, as well as coaching staff, to work with last year. But now, he has chosen the guys that he wants and they will definitely support him throughout the year."

South Africa are in Pool B alongside the All Blacks, Italy and two other qualifiers in the group stage, as they look to win their first World Cup since 2007.

The woes of the national team are also reflected in the struggles of the South African franchises in Super Rugby. The Bulls were the last South African club to win the overall championship in 2010.

Johannesburg-based Lions came close to ending that barren run last year but lost 3-20 to New Zealand side Hurricanes in the final.

The Sharks, quarter-finalists last season, are third in the South African group with seven wins from 11 games but lost to the Southern Kings last weekend.

Despite the mismatch against the Sunwolves - last overall with one win from 10 games - Sharks head coach Robert du Preez is not underestimating the opposition.

The Sunwolves are co-based in Singapore and Japan and finished bottom in their Super Rugby debut campaign last year.

De Preez added: "Sometimes results are not always a good reflection of what's happening in the team. It does take time, but the Sunwolves are well coached and they're playing good rugby.

"Their breakdown is fantastic and I feel that theirs is one of the best in Super Rugby."

• Tickets for tomorrow's Sunwolves-Sharks match can be purchased at sportshubtix.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Springboks’ revival on cards: Mtawarira'. Print Edition | Subscribe