DURBAN – Monday the Rugby World Cup squads began pouring into Japan - nine days after the Springboks were by some margin the earliest competing nation to rock up - and you have to think that the South Africans have thus stolen a march on the opposition.
The early arrival to facilitate a warm-up game and thorough acclimatisation could well prove to be another masterstroke by Rassie Erasmus, the latest shrewd strategy from a coach that this year has always been a step ahead of his counterparts.
It would be fair comment that it was Erasmus’ forward thinking that won the Boks the Rugby Championship earlier this year, their first silverware since 2009.
The Springbok bus pulls up outside their hotel in Seki, Japan, after a 25 hour trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. 🇿🇦✈️🚄🚎🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/bPIf27NHaR— Springboks (@Springboks) August 31, 2019
If the coach had not come up with a plan to field two different teams for the round one match against Australia in Pretoria and the away game against the All Blacks - allowing him to send 14 players to Wellington 12 days before the match - the Boks would never have been fresh enough to match the New Zealanders on their home turf.
That match was drawn in the dying minutes ... If the Boks had arrived in the New Zealand capital on the Monday of the match, which is customary, they would never have had the legs to snatch a famous result at the death. The jet lag would have caught up with them at the three-quarter mark.
This successful tactic of getting there early and getting used to the conditions is why the Boks were playing Japan in a friendly a week before the other squads were packing their suitcases. The Boks are the only country to have played a warm-up match in Japan, and it gives them an advantage.
Sure the other countries would have spoken about the hot, humid conditions in Japan but it is quite another thing to play and train in them. The Boks have done both, pushing themselves to the limits to bank invaluable stamina and knowledge of what to expect by the time they play their first match, against the All Blacks on September 21.
The more extreme the conditions you train and play under, the better the body gets conditioned.
Understanding humidity and how it drains energy while making the ball slippery is why it is so difficult to beat the Sharks in Durban in February and March - they do their pre-season training in stiflingly hot conditions.
We saw in the Boks’ 41-7 victory over Japan last week how slippery the ball is in humidity, so having been the only country to play a Test match in these inhibiting conditions has to stand the Boks in good stead for their big kick-off against the Kiwis.@MikeGreenaway67