Mzwandile Stick said the occasion doesn’t get any bigger for the world champion Springboks than a do-or-die World Cup clash against hosts France on Sunday night.
The stage is set for a cracker of a quarter-final between the Webb Ellis Cup holders, the Boks, and Fabien Galthie’s charges at Stade de France this weekend.
The French topped Pool A to book their spot in the last eight while South Africa finished second in Pool B behind top-ranked Ireland. The recent tussle between the South Africans and France saw Les Bleus triumph 30-26 in Marseille last November.
Sunday’s match will be just the second time that SA has faced France at a World Cup. Their first tournament meeting came in the 1995 semi-finals, when the Boks survived a French onslaught to win 19-15 at a waterlogged Kings Park in Durban.
Speaking in a Bok conference on Saturday, assistant coach Stick was asked whether the anticipation for this weekend’s match was greater than against Ireland in the group stage or the match against France in 2022.
“It is playoffs. There is no second chance. It’s a big game playing against the host nation. They are in a good space as a team,” he told reporters.
“I think this is way bigger than the game against Ireland. We will make sure that we pitch up, we’ve done all our prep.
“It is going to be a tough occasion. They are playing at home but we are also here to represent our country. We have been here before, we understand the challenge and hopefully we will be on the right side of the scoreboard.”
Stick also addressed the pressure of being defending champs playing in front of a partisan crowd, with the Boks looking to stay the course for an unprecedented fourth World Cup title.
“We are playing against France and we know they are also in a good space as a team. They have won all their games, they had a big game against the All Blacks in the first game of the group stage and did very well,” he added.
“The nice thing for us is we have been in this position before. In Japan in 2019, it was the same thing, playing Japan with all their supporters. It is the nature of the game in a World Cup, you have to go through the tough ones.
“At least we have a good reference point. We have been here before. Every game we play now, we can’t afford not to capitalise on the opportunities that are created. It is going to be a tight game. We are well prepared but we will see tomorrow. It doesn’t get bigger than this.”
Quizzed on if there will be any changes to the team before kick-off, the former Blitzboks skipper replied: “No, my friend, the team is announced, we will stick with that; if there is someone sick overnight or injured that [could change the team].”
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