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Beating All Blacks tops Springboks list of targets

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South African Rugby captain Jean de Villiers says that after two years of losing to New Zealand’s All Blacks beating the Rugby World Champions tops their list.

The Rugby World Cup is almost a year away and De Villiers says that a Kiwi scalp would be a major confidence boost ahead of the showpiece in England.

“It still is a one game at a time approach and our focus is on Argentina,” De Villiers said at a five-day training camp.

“But for us as a team, to go forward, it is important to beat the All Blacks. We haven’t done so in the last two years and that is one of our goals.”

“We want to be the best team in the world and we want to get back to number-one and to do that we need to beat them.”

The Springboks kick-off their 2014 Rugby Championship against Argentina in Pretoria next Saturday.

While the Springboks boasted a near perfect 83 percent winning record in 2013, the two defeats against the All Blacks were the only blemish.

The Springboks have lost 8 out of their last nine matches against the All Blacks and the only victory in those matches was against an understrength New Zealand team ahead of the World Cup at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in 2011.

While beating the All Blacks is top of their list De Villiers said the side would not make it the be-all and end-all.

“I don’t think the focus is just on them, the Wallaby team will be very competitive this year as well,” De Villiers said.

“We can’t just focus on one team and when you beat them think you’ve made it, but it is one of the boxes we haven’t ticked in the last two years. We want to be able to tick that box and go into next year confident.”

This year has so far been defined by comebacks of players, whose careers on the international stage had looked to be over.

Victor Matfield first dusted off his boots after a two year retirement to become the oldest active Springbok player at age 37.

Schalk Burger also made a miraculous return to the green and gold in June after he was struck down by bacterial meningitis and sidelined for two years.

Earlier on Thursday, the announcement that fiery flanker Juan Smith has been called into camp completed his remarkable comeback.

Smith retired from the game in early 2013 due to a persistent Archilles injury but found a new lease on his career at French club Toulon.

“What a story, I remember him handing over the jerseys last year in Nelspruit, and you could just see the determination in his mind.

“He felt at that stage he still had a lot to give and he still had some unfinished business, even though the majority of people wrote him off saying he will never play again.”

Speaking of his own injury woes, De Villiers was confident that he would lead the team out against Argentina despite concern over a knee injury.

“I’ve been running for the last couple of weeks and since starting training this week it has improved a lot,” he said.

“It is looking much better than I initially thought and at this stage it is looking good for next week.

“If I’m fit and if the knee is ready to go whether it is Currie Cup, Super Rugby or Test match, from a fitness point of view I am good.”

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