PRETORIA – With the Rugby Championship title decided and the All Blacks having being crowned champions once again, it would be simplifying too much to say the only incentive the Springboks have against their old foe is to prove their win in New Zealand three weeks ago was no fluke.
As important as it will be for the Boks to show they have made significant strides under Rassie Erasmus, Saturday’s match at Loftus will be more than just the Springboks having to debunk the perception that their Wellington victory was a one-hit wonder, according to forwards coach Matt Proudfoot.
While the Boks will want to secure a rare double over the All Blacks, it will by no means be the defining moment of their international season, but rather a rite of passage for a team which has struggled to shake off their boyish image in the rugby world.
“I don’t think one game determines the success of your season, or the successes of who you are as an outfit. The challenge of the Springbok-All Black game is what makes it special. It is 46 players putting their lives into this Test match, just to sit there and watch the players, that’s what it’s about. It’s about them, the way they play and put their lives on the line, that intensity,” said Proudfoot.
In order for the Boks to replicate what they did in Wellington, or do something special on home soil, they will need to get some consistency going in the manner in which they control the game for the 80 minutes.
What was glaringly obvious in the Boks’ victory against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth over the weekend was their indifferent levels of intensity, but Proudfoot believes it will be in winning the numerous battles that will hand them victory against the All Blacks.
“When we are talking about consistency, that is we are trying to stay in control of the Test match for longer. We may have put a lot of work on ourselves, we were quite in control in the first half (against Australia) and we let that go, so that is the consistency we are after. Consistency of physical performance against a side like Australia, we knew they were going to carry a lot.
“It is traditionally one of the highest ball-in-play games, and again we were asked to make a lot of tackles against a quality attacking side. That is something which is consistent in that we were able to do so. This team is continuously searching for improvement, to be a better side and to control Test matches for longer periods of time. We learn every week and constantly finding that better performance, so we are looking forward this week,” he said.
In the Boks’ ambition to gain complete control of Saturday’s Test, Proudfoot says it will begin with the men upfront and how they go about bossing the All Blacks, particularly in the scrums, lineouts and driving mauls.
“The maul is such a crucial weapon to rugby in that it puts eight forwards in one space and creates space for the backs to attack from. It is an important platform to maintain integrity of in world rugby. If you have a team which can scrum well you keep the opposition flanks bound and it allows your backline to attack really flat on them and create momentum.
“It is the same as a maul. If you look at the way the All Blacks attack, they use that platform really well. They play off the maul and make you sit at scrum time, if you ask our flanks how difficult it is to defend when the tight five is asking for that extra pressure. As a rugby purist, the integrity of the contest at scrum time, lineouts and the maul needs to be well preserved because that is where we get space.
“We need the set phase and the integral part it does to the defence. As a pack we know what is coming,” said Proudfoot.
Meanwhile, centre Damian de Allende has recovered from injury and is almost a shoo-in to start Saturday’s game, while Warren Whiteley's availability will only be known today.