The quality of the execution rather than the standard of fitness will be decisive in the dying minutes of the World Cup semi-final at Twickenham on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
New Zealand have beaten South Africa in six of the last seven Tests. In each and every one of those contests, the All Blacks have scored more points than the Springboks in the second half.
Heyneke Meyer has often lamented a South African system that contrasts that of New Zealand. The Bok coach has routinely complained about the amount of rugby played by South African players during the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament. This has led to injuries and compromised the fitness levels of key players at the most important stage of the rugby season.
However, in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, a number of key Boks were rested and managed over the course of Super Rugby. They were then put through a gruelling fitness programme in August to prepare them for the World Cup.
Meyer believes that the careful planning and hard work should pay off this weekend. The Bok coach has selected a bench that boasts plenty of skill and experience. Overall, Meyer is confident that the team has what it takes to match the All Blacks for 80 minutes, at least on the fitness front.
Not everybody holds the same view. Earlier this week, former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall said that the Boks would run out of steam in the second half. Marshall also felt that the All Blacks had the better impact players and that New Zealand coaches have been more astute in terms of the management of the substitutions.
Meyer, however, believes that the Boks may surprise a few people this weekend.
‘We overtrained during the Rugby Championship in an attempt to get our fitness levels up. I was pleased with our intensity against Wales, but we know that even more will be required when we play the All Blacks this Saturday. We’ve kept the guys fresh this week in anticipation of a big battle against the All Blacks.
‘I’ve picked what I believe to be my strongest bench ever,’ Meyer continued. ‘The All Blacks will look to speed the game up from the get-go in an attempt to tire us. They will really apply the pressure in those last 15 minutes. I’m confident that we won’t run out of steam at any stage. It will be more a case of whether we can execute at that crucial period of the game.’
The Bok bench is certainly not short on experience. Victor Matfield, Jannie du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar all featured at the 2007 World Cup in France. Willem Alberts and Pat Lambie played in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final in New Zealand. On the other end of the scale, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane and Jan Serfontein have proved terrific impact players in what is their first World Cup.
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