Come rain or shine, assistant coach Johann van Graan says the Springboks will be prepared for the northern hemisphere conditions at the World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.
The Boks will kick off their World Cup campaign against Japan at the Brighton Community Stadium on 19 September, and the coaching staff have done an intensive analysis of the conditions and grounds where they will be playing in England.
‘I’ve been fortunate enough to go to every stadium that we’re going to play at,’ Van Graan said at the Springboks’ team hotel in Umhlanga on Wednesday. ‘They’re fantastic venues with fast fields, we know the length the grass is going to be throughout the World Cup, and we’ve done our homework about the weather. We’re not weather men, but if you look at the previous conditions [at that time of year], I think it could be perfect for a large part of the tournament.
‘All our games are around five o’clock, and I think there’ll be hard and fast surfaces. If we get to the latter stages of the tournament in October, you can then get a wet day or a sunny day, but whatever it is we feel we’ll be prepared… it will all just come down to who executes best on the day.’
The Boks have been drawn in a pool with Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the USA, and Van Graan said the importance of the group stage could not be underestimated.
‘If you look at the history of the tournament, no side that’s won the World Cup has lost a game, so we are going with the mindset that you have to win seven out of seven. And if you don’t get through the pool stage you can’t get to a quarter-final… I think it’s kind of like two competitions in a competition. First you have to get to a quarter-final, and then it’s knockout rugby for the next three weeks.’
Van Graan said there were some understandable nerves in the Bok group as Friday’s World Cup squad announcement draws nearer.
‘Everybody is a bit nervous. But it’s such a massive privilege to be part of this Springbok group: we’re all working really hard, we are dream givers, not dream takers. It will obviously be very sad for the guys who miss out, but we have grown very close together as a squad, and everyone knows that injuries can happen and that anyone can still be called on to play a role.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images