PRETORIA – The Springboks are under no illusions of what awaits them at Loftus on Saturday when they face the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship encounter (5.05pm kickoff).
With the southern hemisphere title having already been bagged when the All Blacks beat Argentina last weekend, the only thing left on the New Zealanders’ minds is settling a score that has hurt deeply since their shock defeat at the hands of the Boks in Wellington last month.
But the Boks won’t lie down and allow their fate to be determined by the reigning double world champions, and instead will look to replicate and improve their performance at home according to flyhalf Handre Pollard.
“It’s pretty obvious, if you go back in history, every time they’ve lost a test match they come back firing at 120 percent the next week and the next time they play that team. We know they are going to come out, we know they will be more accurate and more physical. But we are at home and it is up to us to match that and go one step further,” Pollard said yesterday.
That win in Wellington may have left the All Blacks seething and baying for blood, however it had the opposite effect on the Boks as it left them with heaps of confidence in what they can achieve as a team going forward and has also created a lot of expectation amongst their support base.
It is no secret that the rest of the rugby world remains sceptical of the Boks’ resurgence after being in the doldrums for the past two years, but Pollard says they are now looking to get some continuity and consistency in their performance for Saturday’s game and the end-of-year tour.
“People will have expectations now, it was a big win of course, but we are just focussing on the process. We know now what we are capable of, but as I said, you have to be consistent and you have to perform at that level week in and (week) out and that is our challenge now,” said Pollard.
“We’re in a positive space at the moment, with two great wins for us. We’ve been a bit up and down throughout the season so what we are looking for is just continuity and consistency and performing at a higher level. So of course we’re performing at a higher level, of course we are in a good space but Saturday is a big test for us. We want to keep that momentum going into the end-of-year tour, so it is a big game for us.”
As was the case in the New Zealand capital, victory against the number one side in the world won’t come easy and over and above putting in another Herculean defensive effort, the Boks will need to play some enterprising rugby if they are to achieve the same result.
The Boks have boldly attributed their last two Test wins against the All Blacks and Wallabies to their steely defence, but Pollard says it won’t be enough and they will need to show the same resolve and grit with ball in hand.
“Our defensive efforts have been absolutely amazing, especially in the second halves of both Test matches,” he said.
“It is a bit of a concern, you don’t want to be doing that in every Test match so we have been looking at ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but it also gives us great confidence knowing our defence is solid.
“Attacking-wise we are creating opportunities, we aren’t always converting, but we are creating those opportunities and that is something we want to keep building on and want to convert a little more. It’s a lot of small things, nothing specific that you can put your finger on.
It is just being a little bit more accurate, being a little more patient and making better decisions.”