The need to achieve ‘consistency’ has been the buzzword out of the Springbok camp ahead of Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.
‘We don’t want to be a team that beats New Zealand one week and then plays mediocre rugby the next,’ Faf de Klerk stated matter-of-factly at a press conference earlier this week. Sitting alongside him, assistant coach Mzwandile Stick nodded his head in firm agreement.
De Klerk went on to suggest that once the Boks had left the team changing rooms at the Westpac Stadium following their famous win over the All Blacks, they had already accepted that their focus needed to shift to the next challenge.
You get the sense that this isn’t just your usual people-pleasing wordplay from the Springboks. This is a team in transition that wants to start stringing sequences of top performances together rather than run the risk of remaining caught up in the celebrations of a one-hit wonder.
A lacklustre showing against the Wallabies this Saturday would undo a lot of the good work completed in Wellington. Indeed, it’s over the final two Tests of the Rugby Championship that the Boks are determined to send out another warning to their world rugby opponents less than a year away from the World Cup.
With that in mind, there have been increasing signs that the Boks are beginning to settle on their first-choice combinations, and there are expected to be minimal unenforced changes for Saturday’s clash.
In the midfield, André Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel are expected to start in the absence of injured Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, while on the right wing, Cheslin Kolbe may crack the nod ahead of S’bu Nkosi, who has only just returned from injury.
This match represents an opportunity for the Boks to build on the momentum garnered from the Wellington win, and they have now set their sights on eradicating the errors and ill-discipline that haunted them against the Wallabies in Brisbane earlier this season.
It’s not since 2014 that the Boks have managed to beat two different opponents in back-to-back Rugby Championship games, and they will know that there can be no excuses for another slip-up against an embattled Wallabies team.
If the Springboks want to keep stoking the flames of belief in their ability to compete at next year’s showpiece in Japan, then they have to find consistency in the standards that they emphatically set against the All Blacks.
In many respects, that result saw the Boks draw a line in the sand. Rassie Erasmus’ charges know that’s what they are capable of, and now it’s about continuing to take meaningful strides forward at a time when their confidence and self-belief should be at an all-time high.
‘We’re focusing on the process to get better as a team,’ Stick emphasised this week. ‘This is a big occasion for us, and we’ve seen the fighting spirit the boys have, but at times we haven’t converted all our opportunities or battled with a high error rate. We won’t be underestimating Australia, that’s for sure, this about building as a team and giving our supporters something to celebrate.’
Springboks (probable) – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Image