Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi has dismissed talk that the world champions are the favourites to win the 2022 Rugby Championship opener against the embattled All Blacks in Nelspruit on Saturday.
“How we see it as a group is that we haven’t beaten the All Blacks at home in eight years,” said Kolisi, who will lead the Boks against a New Zealand outfit that arrived in the Republic on the back of four defeats in five Tests.
In 2014, Pat Lambie held his cool to slot a long-range winner at Ellis Park to give the Boks their first win against the All Blacks since 2011, and also the Kiwis’ first loss in the expanded Rugby Championship and first defeat since 2012.
“We cannot control what happens in the All Blacks camp, but we can control what we do,” Kolisi added. “We’ve been in a situation before where we lost two matches in a row, and what we learned is that it takes one game to kickstart a team, so we do not see ourselves as favourites at all.
“The All Blacks are a team that just don’t stop, so it will require an 80-minute performance to defeat them. They have players in the starting lineup and on the bench who are game-breakers, and we need to ensure we execute our plan no matter what the score is.”
Backline coach Mzwandile Stick added: “There is never such a thing as the Springboks entering a match against the All Blacks as the favourites. It’s always nice and close between these two teams, so we cannot underestimate them.
“These games are massive. They are one of the biggest in the rugby world. So, as a team we would like to execute our game plan effectively, and the team that does it the best for 80 to 82 minutes, will be the best.”
“If you switch off a little against them, they could easily score two tries against you, so we know we are up against a world-class side, and as a team we respect the rivalry between these rugby nations.”
The battle in Nelspruit will be extra special for Kolisi – the 65-Test flanker made his Bok debut at the Mbombela Stadium against Scotland in 2013: “It has been a journey with many ups and downs, so this is a special stadium for me and hopefully I can play as well as possible.
“That said, the All Blacks will be up for the challenge, and I agree with coach Stick that there is no Test bigger than this for them right now.
“As children we dreamed of games like these, and we filled up the living room watching them. All the guys in this squad would have loved to be in the match-day squad, so the 23 that were selected need to go out there and do our best.”
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