The Springboks’ chances of beating the All Blacks will hinge on their ability to control the tempo of the game, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
The Boks have received a boost on the eve of the World Cup semi-final. Lood de Jager has been cleared of a foot injury and will start against the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday.
De Jager will add some clout to the Boks’ gainline effort, be it on attack or defence. Indeed, all eight of the South African forwards will be looking to make a statement against their traditional rivals in the first half.
Earlier this week, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen went as far to say that the Boks would be looking to ‘rip the All Blacks' heads off’. This was put to Burger on Friday afternoon after the captain’s run. The veteran flank laughed before more or less admitting that the All Blacks could be in for a rough afternoon.
‘No, not right now. Maybe tomorrow, though,’ Burger said. ‘We pride ourselves on our physicality, and will certainly look to make our presence felt. That said, they play a similar type of game. They won’t stand back.
‘They’re such a quality outfit and it will take something special to beat them. We have to focus on containing them, and so it all starts with our defence.
‘I’ve enjoyed many great battles against them over the years. Their attack is phenomenal in terms of their skill set and execution. You really need to try and slow them down and control the tempo of the game.’
Burger said a powerful defensive effort by the Boks should lead to counter-attacking opportunities. The Boks’ ability to convert those opportunities into points will be crucial.
‘When I think back to the games we’ve won against the All Blacks, we’ve taken all of our opportunities,’ said Burger. ‘In the games we’ve lost, we’ve only converted about half of our chances.
‘You have to make it count against a team like the All Blacks. Is this the greatest team ever? They have to be. The stats say so.’
Fourie du Preez has played alongside Burger at the Boks since 2004. Du Preez and Burger were part of the side that won the 2004 and 2009 Tri-Nations tournament, the 2007 World Cup, and the 2009 British & Irish Lions series. And yet Du Preez feels that the coming match at Twickenham will be the biggest of their respective careers.
Du Preez also revealed that he and Burger have been talking about the possibility of facing the All Blacks at the World Cup since the beginning of the year. Du Preez and Burger currently play for the same club, Suntory Sungoliath, in Japan.
‘We were speaking about it a lot, after training sessions in Japan,’ he said. ‘It’s kind of unbelievable that we’re now in this position, as captain and vice-captain of the Boks in a World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks.
‘Hopefully if we play well enough on Saturday, get ourselves into good positions, and take our opportunities, we can end [the pair’s final Test against the All Blacks] on a high.’
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images