The strength and depth of Springbok rugby, together with the resourcefulness of its coaching staff, will be put to the ultimate test when the series against the British and Irish Lions begins in Cape Town on Saturday evening.
Two years ago, the Boks became Rugby World Cup Champions thanks to a new approach to the game.
Today, they will attempt to prove that they are still competitive, despite almost no international rugby in the intervening years thanks to a pandemic.
The World Champion Springboks continue to contend with calls that they are under-done and unprepared for the might of the British and Irish Lions.
There is little the Green and Gold can do about that, but go out and prove the dissenters wrong.
?? The Springbok team for the first Test in the #CastleLionsSeries. #StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/9SXN4fhbvF
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 23, 2021
And in the first test on Saturday, Captain Siya Kolisi says his side intends on emptying the tank against the Lions, because although there are three tests, it’s a series that only comes around once in a generation.
“Our main focus is this first test and we are going to do everything in our power to win the first test and we give everything. This is a big series it’s not going to come for another twelve years and most of us will not get this opportunity again,” says Kolisi.
It’s a simple enough approach, as were the preparations according to assistant coach, Mzwandile Stick.
Against the Lions, the Boks have prepared for every eventuality.
“When it comes to playing against the British and Irish Lions we are going to have to be at our best in all the departments. We know they got a good kicking game and also on the day when you give them space out wide to their outside backs they will be dangerous,” explains Stick.
Kolisi is back after recovering from a bout of COVID-19 and the resultant isolation he had to observe.
He believes he is ready for top-level test match rugby, and won’t hold back from the first whistle.
To our @Springboks – you know we have your backs right? We back you ?? and know you will make us proud! Go Bokke! pic.twitter.com/gGQGvgY7Vz
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) July 23, 2021
“I do feel good but obviously, I do know that if it gets to a place where I am tired and I can’t go anymore I know my coaches know me they know the signs when I am tired they will get me and take me off the field whether it’s early,” says Kolisi.
Being the British and Irish Lions, and with the accompanying media scrutiny, talk of mind-games was broached.
Will the Boks be chirping South African-born Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe?
Kolisi says: “We’ve never been that kind of team and we will never be that kind of team we go about our business; we focus on the game…we are not going to focus on one player that definitely doesn’t come from our side. I don’t know anything about that because we have not come out and said this is what we are going to do. We are going to be chirping, we save our energy for the work that we need to do.”
Another point of contention for the Lions contingent is the role of Rassie Erasmus, the world’s most qualified water boy.
“To keep it short and sweet Rassie will be running the water tomorrow (Saturday) that is his role now in the team to assist Jacques Nienaber as a head coach so he will be there and he will be running around bringing water on the field to the players and we as a Springbok rugby…we are happy with that,” says Stick.
One clear advantage taken away from the Boks, is that of altitude. The series stays put in Cape Town for all three test matches, and a series win would be all more special.