Siya Kolisi has called on the Springboks to empty the tank against Wales and end a disappointing season on a high. JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff reports.
The Kolisis welcomed a baby girl, Keziah Qaqamba, into the world last week. On Tuesday, the Bok flanker told SARugbymag.co.za that he was still buzzing from the experience.
It didn’t take long, however, for Kolisi to point out that his paternity leave is a thing of the past. Kolisi has flown back to the northern hemisphere to boost the Boks ahead of their fourth and final tour match against Wales. He will have an even greater role to play now that veterans Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw have returned to their respective clubs in France and England.
The Boks began the 2017 season in encouraging fashion. Three convincing wins against France were followed by two victories over Argentina, one of those on the road.
The next five results, however, put the Boks’ progress into perspective. South Africa drew at home and away with a struggling Australia side. They suffered their heaviest defeat in history when they went down 57-0 to the All Blacks in Albany.
They were beaten again by the All Blacks in a far tighter game at Newlands. The subsequent clash in Dublin, however, was a one-sided embarrassment. The Boks went down 38-3 in their worst-ever loss to Ireland.
The subsequent wins against France and Italy – and even a third tour win against Wales on Saturday – won’t erase the disappointment of a two-from-six record in the Rugby Championship. They won’t erase the monumental defeat to Ireland, and they are unlikely to save the jobs of coach Allister Coetzee and his assistants.
A win against Wales will, however, ensure that the players go into the 2018 season with some hope.
‘Coach Franco [Smith] told us that we will be remembered for this game against Wales,’ Kolisi said. ‘We’re going to give it everything we have this weekend.
‘It was tough to watch the game against Italy last week. That was a great performance, especially by the forwards, and I would have loved to have been part of it.
‘I’m fortunate to be back for this last game, though, and all the boys are keen to finish on a high.’
The new personnel in the back row, as well as the dry conditions at the Millennium Stadium – the Test will be played under the roof – will influence the side’s tactics. According to forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, the Boks may field Kolisi, Uzair Cassiem and Dan du Preez in the back row.
Proudfoot has called on the forwards to improve on their showing against Italy. Indeed, the Azzurri went into that match ranked No 13 in the world and with one win in the previous 11 Tests. Success against such an outfit should be viewed in perspective.
‘There were a few soft moments early on,’ said Proudfoot. We spoke about not having a situation where we have two soft moments in a row. That happened when we conceded those early penalties.
‘We got better as the game progressed, though. The detail at the set phases was very good.’
Kolisi said that he is looking forward to the challenge of fronting the Wales back row.
‘Josh Navidi played well against the All Blacks last week,’ he noted. ‘The Wales loose forwards like to play with ball in hand and they also defend well. Obviously we will have to cover the whole width of the field.
‘It’s going to be a different challenge. They showed what they can do against the No 1 team in the world, so we will need to be on our toes.’
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