Strauss: All focus on All Blacks

Springbok skipper Adriaan Strauss says his emotions won’t be any different despite heading into his final Test match at home, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.

After last Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies, Strauss was visibly emotional. The Bok stalwart, who recently announced his decision to retire from international rugby next year, had just produced a Man of the Match performance to inspire the Springboks to a victory that ended a three-match losing streak.

He is now set to lead the Boks out for his last Test on home soil, but at Friday’s captain’s press conference in Umhlanga, he presented a cool, calm and composed demeanour.

‘It is obviously my last game in South Africa, but as I’ve said to people this week, it’s not emotional for me. This week is all about our challenge against the All Blacks, who are currently the best team in the world. All my energy and that of the team need to be focused on that, there is no time for emotion or reflections just yet. It’s going to be a massive game.’

Although the All Blacks have won eight of their last nine Tests against the Boks, Strauss was there for that solitary recent victory when a late Pat Lambie penalty secured a hard-fought two-point win at Ellis Park in 2014.

And while the Kiwis – who are on a 16-match unbeaten streak – will go into Saturday’s clash as overwhelming favourites, Strauss insisted that the Boks would do battle with a positive mindset.

‘The motivation is that we know we’re coming up against the best side in the world. They’re a well-oiled machine and they’re a very street-smart side that is cunning at the breakdown, technically very good, strong on defence, attack and at the set pieces, while they don’t give away many penalties.

‘So there aren’t many weaknesses, but this is the sort of side you want to measure yourself against. At times this season our execution has been our biggest problem, and we’ve been our own worst enemies. So we want to ensure that we are tactically much better, display good game management and avoid making mistakes that will allow New Zealand to play a lot in our half.’

When the two teams last met in Christchurch, the All Blacks produced a second-half surge to ultimately come away with a 28-point victory, but just five points separated the sides at half-time. In last year’s World Cup semi-final, just two points separated the teams at the final whistle.

Strauss said the Boks wouldn’t look into the past for motivation, but reiterated his belief that it would be a closely fought encounter at Kings Park.

‘When we’re really up for it as a team, and we will be for such a big battle against the world’s best team, then it will be close. We have our plans in place, and we want to play with quick ball and create momentum at the right time and in the right areas of the field. So, we really are feeling very positive.’

On one final personal note, Strauss said he was not reconsidering his decision to retire from Test rugby next year, but there’s no doubt he will be hoping for a fitting send-off in his final game at home.

‘This is the sort of week that is so special as a Springbok. When I grew up as a farm boy in South Africa, I never dreamed of playing for the Boks, let alone captaining the team. But this is the pinnacle for any rugby player, and it’s a privilege to be here. It’s going to be a very special occasion.’

Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis