Steven Kitshoff says the Springboks can’t afford to take their foot off the gas in the wake of a monumental win over the All Blacks. JON CARDINELLI in Port Elizabeth reports.
Rassie Erasmus hasn’t given much away with regards to team selections this week. The Bok coached mixed and matched his combinations at an open training session held at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Monday afternoon. Tuesday’s session, however, was staged behind closed doors.
Will Erasmus reinstate the veteran Beast Mtawarira at No 1, and will he persist with Frans Malherbe at No 3? Typically, players who have been earmarked to start a particular Test are put up for media duty. On Tuesday, Kitshoff and Vincent Koch – who only joined the squad on Monday night – attended the press conference in Summerstrand.
It will also be interesting to see whether the Boks can replicate the performance that brought them success against the All Blacks in Wellington when they face the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Do they have anything left in the tank after such a warrior-like showing? Will they go into that clash with a complacent attitude, or will they continue to play like there’s no tomorrow?
These were the questions that were put to Kitshoff, one of the heroes for the Boks in that monumental win in Wellington. According to Kitshoff, the Boks crossed a line with that display at the Cake Tin. There is no going back.
‘That has given the team some confidence,’ he said. ‘There’s a bigger energy in the side after that. The guys are pumped. We’ve got to carry that through to the next few games.
‘Look back at what happened [against the All Blacks] in Cape Town last year. The guys played their hearts out [but still came up short]. Going into the game in Wellington, nobody backed us. We came out fighting and afterwards you could see what it meant to the okes. You could see it on their faces. We were chuffed.
‘Every Test is a big occasion. You have to be up for it. There’s been a lot of talk about this recently, about bringing that physical edge to the game and getting in the faces of opponents. It feels good when we make the big hits. We will have to do it from the kickoff, though. That is something we can improve on.’
2018 may well be remembered as the year the Boks beat the All Blacks. The season as a whole has witnessed a few disappointments, however. The defeats to Argentina in Mendoza and to Australia in Brisbane highlighted the team’s struggle for consistency.
Come Saturday, the Boks will have a chance to set the record straight. The battle at the set pieces and breakdowns will shape the contest.
‘The Wallabies have a good pack,’ said Kitshoff. ‘The last Test in Brisbane was scrappy, we couldn’t get our scrum going or get much clean ball. We’ve go to stick to our own structures this week and ensure that there is a cleaner battle at the set pieces.
‘Michael Hooper and David Pocock are brilliant in the way they slow your ball down at the breakdown. The forwards have got an important job to do in getting to the rucks and securing clean ball. That’s so crucial if you want to give the backs front-foot ball.’
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