Pieter-Steph du Toit says the Springboks will be desperate to claim a rare win against the All Blacks on South African soil next week. JON CARDINELLI reports from Port Elizabeth.
The Boks beat the All Blacks 36-34 in Wellington two weeks ago. The result marked the Boks’ first win in New Zealand since 2009.
The All Blacks have dominated this fixture for the better part of a decade. In South Africa, they have beaten the Boks six times in the last eight Tests.
While the All Blacks have had the wood over the Boks in New Zealand for most of the professional era, there was a time – and not too long ago – when the South Africans won regularly at home. Most recently, the Boks went down 25-24 to the All Blacks in Cape Town last year.
Du Toit, one of the senior players, believes it’s time to set the record straight. Speaking to the media on Saturday evening – in the wake of the team’s 23-12 win over the Wallabies – the flank said that there will be everything to play for when the two sides clash at Loftus Versfeld on 6 October.
‘The All Blacks are going to come at us with everything they’ve got,’ Du Toit said. ‘They’re going to try and prove a point [after the loss in Wellington].
‘That said, we’ve got a point to prove as well. We’ve beaten them there, and we have to show we can beat them here as well.’
The Boks suffered a record 57-15 loss to the All Blacks in Durban two years ago. The last time they scored a victory against the All Blacks in South Africa was in 2014.
Du Toit feels the Boks have turned a corner since Rassie Erasmus took the head coaching reins earlier this year.
‘South African teams are trying to get that physicality back. We’re trying to put the opponents on the back foot. Defence has been a big focal point in recent games, and hopefully we will get it right next week too.’
Du Toit was one of the standouts in this department when the Boks beat the All Blacks in Wellington. Following another big effort in Port Elizabeth, he was named Man of the Match.
The blindside flanker said defence coach Jacques Nienaber has made a difference since rejoining the side. Nienaber occupied the role briefly in 2016, before linking up with Erasmus in Munster. Thereafter, the likes of Chean Roux, JP Ferreira and Brendan Venter were all given the opportunity to handle the Bok defence.
Two years ago, Du Toit was slammed after a frail defensive performance against England in Twickenham. He certainly made an impact on defence when the Boks pushed the All Blacks close last year, though, and in the recent games against New Zealand and Australia.
‘People always say that I had a problem. What they forget is that we went through four defence coaches. It makes a difference in terms of getting your mindset around it [what’s required of you].
‘We’ve worked hard on our tackling with Jacques. He’s a great defence coach and I feel like he’s helped me a lot, especially on my technique.
‘I’ve no doubt I can improve on that going forward. The laws of the game have changed and you have to tackle low now. We’ve made adjustments and it feels like we’ve improved.’
The Boks will be looking to end the Rugby Championship on a high. They haven’t won four games in a single campaign since 2014.
The fact that they will play the All Blacks in their first pool match at the 2019 World Cup should serve as additional motivation when they front the New Zealanders at Loftus. Both teams will be looking to score psychological points ahead of the showdown in Japan next year.
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