Mzwandile Stick has called for the match officials to treat the Springboks and All Blacks as equals in the big Pool B opener in Yokohama. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
The conditions will shape the outcome of the clash in Yokohama this Saturday. It rained in Tokyo on Monday morning and more wet weather is expected on the weekend.
Stick and the players spoke at length about the hot and humid conditions that the squad has experienced since arriving in Japan. The rain in the capital will provide a further challenge, and the team that adapts best on Saturday should emerge with the victory.
The Boks are willing to accept that the conditions will shape the clash. According to Stick, however, they are hoping that referee Jerome Garces and the officials don’t go into the game with any preconceived ideas about the All Blacks’ dominance.
‘It’s going to be a tough one,’ the Bok assistant coach began in highlighting the challenge of facing the All Blacks, who have won the two most recent World Cups.
‘We’ve done a lot of hard work as a team and as a coaching staff. I feel that we’re all aligned and I don’t think we could have asked for a better buildup to the World Cup.
‘With regard to the All Blacks, things have been very close in the past three games [over the past two years]. They’re probably also looking forward to this one.
‘Hopefully the match officials will also respect this game. Things are a lot more balanced between us an New Zealand right now.’
When SARugbymag.co.za asked Stick to elaborate, he said that the gap between the All Blacks and the other top teams has closed.
‘The All Blacks have been dominating at Test level. They’ve been favourites going into the World Cup before.
‘If you look at the top five teams at the moment, each one of them has a good chance to win this World Cup. If you look at the recent results, even in the northern hemisphere where Wales beat and lost to England, it’s been very close. It’s been a proper buildup to this World Cup.
‘Hopefully the officials will treat every team equally and respect the games and the fans.’
The Boks have come a long way since Rassie Erasmus took the head coach reins in early 2018. The team won the Rugby Championship last month to end a nine-year title drought.
Stick confirmed that the team is in a good tactical space ahead of the World Cup. The Boks will present a threat on defence as well as attack in this campaign.
‘One thing we’ve done is to make sure all the coaches on attack and defence are working together and are aligned regarding the plan.
‘Sometimes you get systems that are more defensive. You’ve got to have a defensive system that complements your attack, though.
‘We are managing to find a balance of when to kick and when to run. We’re always looking to apply the pressure on the opposition.’
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