South Africa is preparing for the final match of the Rugby Championship with just one injury concern. Marco van Staden, who was impressed in the Boks 19-17 loss to New Zealand on Saturday, is carrying a shoulder injury and was not able to practice on Monday.
It will be another installment in the Springboks’ storied rivalry with the All Blacks, and the team to face them on the Gold Coast of Australia this coming Saturday will be announced on Tuesday.
It was a narrow loss in the dying moments of the 100th test match against arch-rivals, the All Blacks. For the Boks, the forwards were playing above and beyond the call of duty, while having to endure some frustratingly bad decisions from the backs.
It is the life of a forward, but perhaps unkind to have them field answers on what went wrong, never-the-less, Deon Davids, the forwards coach, tried to give an insight into what the players are dealing with.
“It was a test where there was a lot of pressure towards the end, a lot of intensity and we would look at it and be the first to say maybe we could have made better decisions at some stage in terms of what happened, but we also know that things happen, there are different reasons why things went wrong and it has to do with communication and then also being able to make that split second based on what you see in front of you and looking at that we would have learnt lessons from that but looking at the quality of our players and their experience, they will understand what they can do better and we know they will improve in terms of that,” says Springbok Deon David.
The Rugby Championship is gone, the first real failure for this group of players in more than two years. However, lock forward and chief enforcer, Eben Etzebeth, says there is never a dead rubber test match when pulling on the green and gold jersey.
“The motivation is you play for South Africa, it is always a huge honour for us to play in a Springbok jersey. It does not matter the opposition or who we play. We’ve got four test matches left for the year. The Rugby championship we could not win it, this year, but we are going to go out fully prepared for this Saturday. We will be excited, it will be a massive buzz in the team to play against them again,” says Etzebeth.
Playing the All Blacks is a highlight for any Springbok, Etzebeth, in particular, seemed to take his game to another level, the intensity was etched all over his face, most evident when he stared down the Haka.
“No, it’s probably just letting myself at the moment, it is a nice thing. It only happens when you play one of the Pacific nations or New Zealand, when we get to face the Haka, it is always a special moment, you just wish the whistle or the game could start right there after the Haka but some guys want some water first.”
The Springboks say that had they won the match last Saturday, they would be tempted to look at new combinations for this week’s clash. If they do err on the side of caution in terms of team selection, they risk throwing further light on the under-performing members of the squad.