Every week Rassie Erasmus pulls a new trick out of the back of his hand, and his captain Siya Kolisi says a speaker blaring out La Marseillaise at training sessions will help his team cope with the cacophony of noise that will pervade the Stade de France on Sunday night.
“Our coaching staff has been amazing. We have prepared flat-out, and we have simulated match conditions at training,” the Springboks skipper said on Friday about the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against the hosts (9pm kick-off).
“We have had a speaker at training to replicate the type of noise that you normally hear in a French crowd and the songs they sing.
“We remember what it was like when we played France in Marseille last year – we couldn’t even hear each other. We learnt from that. So, the important thing is to get the communication through. It is really loud and different, so we have to try and find the voices among us, especially at the set pieces.”
2019 Rugby World Cup experience vital
Kolisi added that the experience of playing a World Cup in Japan four years ago has helped prepare them for the fanaticism of the locals.
“Playing the host team in a play-off is massive. We all know that. We experienced it in Japan, and it is difficult,” he said.
“But we find strength in each other, we know we have 65 million people back home supporting us
“In our last game against them in Marseille, the atmosphere was incredible. But you can’t allow yourself to think what is happening around you – you have to focus on the game.”
Kolisi explained that the responsibility of playing for so many South Africans in need of good news means that the Boks can’t be distracted by sideshows.
“We are blessed with gratitude for all the people who believe in this team. We are thankful for the people who are putting up big screens for people to view in the townships and malls, because our team represents the whole of South Africa. That is where we get our edge from,” the No 6 said.
“Of course, we love the game and we play for our own personal reasons, but the main thing that brings us together is South Africa. That is who we play for.
“It ensures we don’t give up and always give 100%. That keeps us going, because so many people would give everything to be where we are today. We can influence many people and never take it for granted.”
Keeping cool heads
The captain is tasked with keeping cool heads in a match where the physicality levels will be off the scale.
“Our discipline has been really good – we are the only team who haven’t received a yellow card in this tournament. We do play physically, we do play on the edge, but we train to tackle correctly and stay on-side,” Kolisi stressed.
“We have to live on the edge – South African teams are like that. We play as hard as we can for 80 minutes, and people enjoy our rugby because it’s brutal.”
Antoine Dupont, Kolisi’s captaincy counterpart in the French side, has been cleared to play, and Kolisi said the game is better off for it.
“Antoine’s a big player and everyone respects him around the world. He’s an important player, the leader of the French team, so it was always going to be a big thing whether he could come back,” the Bok leader said.
“We don’t wish for one another to be injured … I am happy for him. We want to play against the best French side possible.”