John Smit says Saturday’s Test against England will be the Springboks’ biggest challenge of their four-game end-of-year tour.
The Boks also face France, Scotland and Wales this month.
‘This tour will be a true barometer of how much they have improved over the past season,’ Smit told SuperSport’s Matthew Pearce. ‘We’ve seen a huge amount of improvement already this season and they are coming together nicely.
‘You can see there’s a cool buzz about what they’ve got going and some of the guys have enjoyed a couple of weeks off after the Rugby Championship. They are up against four good teams, but I think the biggest challenge will be in this first week.
‘It’ll be interesting to see how the selections pan out to see what kind of battle this becomes. Whether it’s something that remains true to the England versus Springboks kind of Test, where it’s slow and physical up front and sort of close-quarters stuff, or whether they ignite with big plays out wide.’
Speaking from past experience, Smit advised the Springboks to adjust to the weather conditions and temperatures as quickly as possible because that’s where England will have an advantage.
‘The conditions are always a challenge, it’s different here. From a surface point of view the game has moved on so much. Training grounds and Twickenham are as good as anything you’ll get back home. It’s really just the contrast in temperature and acclimatising your engine to be able to perform at its best for 80 minutes.
‘For me, the biggest difference was carrying the ball up for the first time in 2000, going down to the ground and literally feeling as if my hands were burning, and avoiding any ball-carries for the next 10 minutes as I warmed up.
‘Where the Boks have got to make the adjustment quickly is from a temperature point of view. It’s always possible that things can change; you can have a [sunny] day like this or you can wake up to a muddy, cold, wet day and I think that’s where the northern hemisphere opponents have an advantage. They practise in that contrast all the time, so their skill set is probably more designed to adapt to a dry, cold ball or a wet muddy ball.’
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix