YOKOHAMA – Springbok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot is relishing the fact that they are facing Wales on neutral territory in the World Cup semifinal in Yokohama, Japan, on Sunday.
This is despite Wales will go into the match on the back of four successive victories over the Springboks.
Since the Boks overcame Wales (23-19) in the quarterfinals of the last Rugby World Cup, Warren Gatland’s men have racked up three wins on their home ground at the Millennium Stadium and one in Washington, USA, in June last year.
“It’s always been a tough ask,” said Proudfoot on Tuesday.
“The fact that we have always played them in Cardiff and then there was the one Test in Washington where we had to juggle the two teams - with having to play England the following weekend - made it difficult.
“Nine times out of ten the Cardiff clash was outside the Test window. So it’s nice that it’s going to be on neutral ground and we have a full squad to pick from – that bodes well for us.
“We have got the team that we want on neutral ground – I suppose they can say the same thing. It’s two teams going at each other and it’s interesting.”
Wales briefly held the No 1 position on the World Rugby rankings and have reached the last four on the back of five successive victories in Japan.
“We handle every pack with the utmost respect,” Proudfoot said.
“They are ranked third in the world; they are Six Nations champions; they have got a fantastic defensive outfit and a very formidable pack with one of the most experienced Test captains in Alun Wyn Jones.
“That pack has been the heartbeat of the British Lions side that went to New Zealand and to go there and win a Test match you have to be a very formidable side."
Proudfoot, though, said he had great confidence in the Springbok pack.
They have a 100 percent line-out completion record at the tournament – 58 successive line-out wins on its ball – it has scrummed thunderously and the maul powered for 40 metres on one occasion against Japan.
“I take confidence as a forward coach in the ownership that the pack takes for the various platforms; whether it be for a scrum or contesting scrum or for mauling or line-out of whatever,” he said.
“The way we function as a pack is to give ownership to the players and they take that on board.
"We’ve got guys who drive various aspects of the game and that has been rewarding for me; seeing the understanding that the players have to solve problems on the field.
“It’s knockout rugby and the opposition will pose different challenges for you. They’ll change first-half to second-half and the players have the ownership to change things, solve problems to achieve the goal we want.
“I’ve been really proud to see them pushing for pressure points and when they feel ‘that’ crack they have flooded that situation.
“We plan to utilise our pack as one of our weapons. We identified in the game against Japan that we could have a bit of an advantage and I suppose it’s just having belief in your plan and that that would happen (maul them for 40 metres).
“Maybe for 50 minutes we didn’t get it right but when it counted the guys stuck to what they were doing and that’s how you create pressure and take advantage of the pressure you have created.
“If you look at how we’ve played in the tournament, we’ve changed it a little bit every now and then but whatever plays have been put out they have believed in and that’s the confidence we take - that we have alignment in the group.”