BLEOMFONTEIN - They've talked about bouncing back, of having a turnaround strategy in place . . . well it’s now time to deliver.
The Springboks have 80 minutes to show the 57-0 hiding handed out by the All Blacks two weeks ago was well and truly a one-off aberration.
If they have any chance of trying to restore their pride and exact some kind of revenge on those same All Blacks players in Cape Town next week when the Rugby Championship wraps up, then Allister Coetzee’s Springboks are simply going to have to produce the goods against Australia today.
Today’s Test is not only about rectifying the problems that beset the Boks in Albany two weeks ago, and winning the match, but also about gaining some momentum and belief and confidence ahead of that return match at Newlands next Saturday.
Win today - and do it well - and the Boks will have something to hang on to, something to believe in ahead of that match, but lose and all sorts of doubts will creep into the minds of the players. In fact, the Boks simply cannot afford to lose or play poorly today, period.
Not too many rugby watchers will give the Boks much chance against the All Blacks next weekend, irrespective of what happens at Toyota Stadium today - simply because the world champions are at another level compared with other teams - making the Wallabies clash the make-or-break for the season.
Never should the Boks lose to an Australian team at altitude, and they’ll be expected to live up to that view again this evening.
It’s a big-time pressure situation facing Coetzee, his assistant coaches and the players.
South African rugby enthusiasts will scrutinise every scrum, lineout, kick, pass, tackle and carry today; they will look to see who mans up and who doesn’t, what type of game-plan is employed and whether the team have the psychological know-how to get back on the winning road, and in style to boot.
Coetzee and some of his coaching staff have talked about the good parts of the 57-0 loss, like the first 20 minutes when the Boks dominated territory and possession, but it meant nothing two weeks ago because they failed to score a point in that period, and it’ll mean nothing today unless his team make it count.
To win back an ever-increasing group of disgruntled fans, the Boks need to create and score tries, make their tackles and be competitive for 80 minutes . . . it’s that simple.
Plenty of talking has been done this week. Several Bok team members have said Albany has been buried, but there’s only one way to prove that; beat the Wallabies and do so properly.
Wins earlier in the season against lowly ranked France and Argentina will mean little to nothing if the Boks don’t beat the Wallabies in Bloemfontein today.
A defeat would erase all the good that has supposedly been put in place since the start of the year and see the Boks go back to square one, to where they were a year ago, with several questions being asked about the make-up of the player group and the coaching ability of Coetzee and his assistants.
The 2017 Bok season, and the potential futures of several men associated with the team, hinges largely on what happens today.
It’s that big a deal.