CAPE TOWN - NOT only has the entire 2021 season been one long hard slog for the Springboks, but they are now actually in the fourth week of their tour of Australia.
Normally during Super Rugby, South African teams are Down Under for four weeks, and by the end of the third, there is often a one-foot-on-the-plane mentality starting to permeate through the squad.
The Boks, though, had to spend the first two weeks in quarantine, with the second at least ending in the rugby match – the 28-26 loss to the Wallabies on the Gold Coast.
The third was last week’s 30-17 defeat to Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. So, having to take on the All Blacks in your fourth week of a five-week trip is not for the faint-hearted.
But despite the pressure of losing two consecutive matches and getting ready for a rampant New Zealand, South African captain Siya Kolisi is determined not to create the impression that being away from home for so long has contributed to their error-ridden performances so far.
“We knew before we came here that we were going to be here for this long, and I think that hasn’t been a problem. We are walking around and everything… It’s tough obviously, as we do miss our families and all that kind of stuff. But we made a decision before we came here that we were never going to use that as an excuse,” Kolisi said from Townsville yesterday ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium (9.05am SA time kickoff).
“And regarding the way they play, it’s all about implementing our plan. We play our own style of rugby, we play at our pace, and hopefully we can get that right in the game tomorrow.
“We will never use that (long trip) as an excuse. We are fine, we are training well and prepared at all times, so that’s all good with us.”
The No 6 flank said that the Boks have taken a close look at what went wrong over the last fortnight against the Wallabies, where they were found wanting defensively, and battled to finish off try-scoring opportunities in the second match, even though they adopted a more attacking approach.
The breakdowns will be another major challenge on Saturday, with All Black captain Ardie Savea strong on the ground, while the South Africans will look to get their maul going again after the Aussies stopped them in their tracks in Brisbane.
But the Boks have been in such difficult situations before, and been able to hit back. In 2018, they lost to Argentina and Australia and then beat New Zealand in Wellington; they went down to the Kiwis in the opening World Cup game and clinched the title; and were able to claim the British and Irish Lions series from 1-0 down.
“The last two games, I think we kind of messed up ourselves – things that we normally get right, we didn’t get right. So, our focus for this week has been to make sure that we get on top of things that we’re normally good at, and not deviate from what the plan is… what we’ve always been good at,” Kolisi said.
“It is obviously tough to lose two games in a row, and it’s the first time since I’ve been captain. But we don’t focus on those things. We want to win every game, but the biggest thing that we’ve focused on is to make sure we get our stuff right this weekend.
“We do think about it (the past successes after defeats), and that’s also something I said to the guys – it’s something we’ve done before. We aren’t being asked to do something different, that we’ve never done before.
“It’s another Test match, and we’re being asked to do something we’ve done before. A lot of the guys in this team have won against the All Blacks, so we will take confidence from that, and that’s why we work so hard and look back at what you can fix, what you did in the past and what you can do to get better.
“That’s how we review ourselves. We looked at the games before: what did we do then, how can we be better this week. And that’s what we did now – we looked at the game against Australia. We feel that we deviated from our plan, we did things that we don’t normally do. And now we want to go back to what made us get to the position that we’re in today.”