Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says his team will not be satisfied by a World Cup final appearance when they face England in Yokohama on Saturday.
In a repeat of the 2007 final the Boks take on Eddie Jones’ England, who have progressed through the tournament unbeaten and could do a ‘grand slam’ of the southern-hemisphere nations, having beaten Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
The Boks have the chance to write their own bit of history by becoming the first team to win a World Cup after winning the Rugby Championship and losing the opening match. Given where the Springboks were at the end of 2017, it has been a remarkable rise to get to the World Cup final, but Erasmus says his team are desperate to finish the job.
‘Getting to this stage is not enough for this team,’ Erasmus said.
‘We now have what may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to become World Champions – something that would mean so much to our country and our people. We know the excitement that there is back home and that the country may well be coming to a standstill on Saturday lunchtime in South Africa. There’s a huge weight of expectation.
‘We may not be favourites but these players will leave nothing in the tank. We know how the wins in 1995 and 2007 lifted the country – even if it was momentarily. We want to give South Africa that experience once again.’
Bok captain Siya Kolisi has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Francois Pienaar and John Smit by becoming the third Springbok captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. It would be achieved on the occasion of his 50th cap – Pienaar did it on his 21st appearance and Smit on his 74th.
‘It’s a great achievement for Siya,’ Erasmus said.
‘Any Springbok captain carries a heavy load – probably doubly so in Siya’s case – and he has really risen to the occasion over the past two years.
‘No one is hiding from the significance that would be attached to him lifting the trophy on behalf of this team and South Africa. But first and foremost on Saturday, this is a rugby match that we’re only focused on winning.’
There is just one change to the Springboks’ starting lineup, with fit-again wing Cheslin Kolbe replacing Sbu Nkosi. The rest of the match-day 23 remains the same as the one that beat Wales in the semi-finals.
‘Chessie is fully fit and ready to go,’ said Erasmus.
‘It’s tough on Sbu to drop out of the 23 altogether but, like the other seven, non-playing squad members – and the two injured players back home [Trevor Nyakane and Jesse Kriel] – he has made vital contributions to our campaign.
‘But we have been developing some momentum through the tournament, which has come from consistency, and although we know there are things we can do better this is a fit, well-practised set of combinations who know what they have to do on Saturday.’
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