Boks ready for ‘African Derby’ with Namibia

Boks ready for ‘African Derby’ with Namibia

The Springboks have wrapped up a week of vigorous preparation ahead of what is being dubbed the ‘African Derby’ against Namibia.

Springbok team photo 27 September
Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets

The dust has finally settled on the Springboks’ loss to the All Blacks in their opening match of the Rugby World Cup last weekend. The team thoroughly dissected the performance and set about preparing for their clash with Namibia this week in Nagoya.

Training sessions at the Ichinomiya Park, a good 50 minute drive from the team hotel, have been intense and purposeful as the Springboks look to gain momentum in their remaining three pool games.

Having seen Uruguay upset Fiji earlier this week, the Springboks have been cognisant of the reality of upsets at the World Cup. Even considering that Namibia have picked a second-string side to face South Africa, holding back their best in order to have a chance of beating Canada next, the Springboks have not adopted a relaxed mentality.

This was made even more evident in the captain’s press conference on Friday, where skipper Schalk Brits and utility back Cheslin Kolbe hammered home the importance of a strong performance.

Brits, who is assuming the captaincy this weekend, said his teammates have put their heads down in training this week to ensure they’re prepared to perform.

“Rassie has always been focusing on the process, irrelevant of the result. We are making sure we are up for it from a physical and mental point of view,” Brits said.

“I was involved in the group that lost against Japan, so I know the feeling - when you should win and don’t. From a team perspective, we have been training so hard this week – it was intense, and that is just the way we have prepared for it.”

Kolbe echoed his captain’s sentiments while suggesting that every team lifts their game at the global showpiece.

“Especially playing in a World Cup, every team is up for it. We never look down on any team, no matter who we play. We know that everyone will come out to get the win. We will make sure we focus on ourselves and make sure we play our best rugby,” Kolbe said.

Fast-paced African Derby

With the game being billed as the World Cup’s African Derby, the Springboks are expecting the Namibians to play at a high tempo.

Nevertheless Springbok backline coach Mzwandile Stick says a major priority is avoiding getting sucked into playing away from their own game plan.

“We know the kind of challenge Namibia will bring. They have many players coming from South Africa who play in the Currie Cup, Super Rugby and club rugby. They know our soul very well – they are going to try to keep the tempo up, and keep the ball alive,” Stick said.

“So, we have to make sure that we stick to our system, as the bigger picture for us is to get better from the All Black game. There are a couple of things that let us down, and we want to get better.

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The match also gives the wider Springbok group an opportunity to gain match fitness and give director of rugby Rassie Erasmus some food for thought in terms of who should be in his strongest match day 23 in the latter stages of the competition.

Stick admits that the ‘African Derby’ does give the players selected this week a chance to impress the coaching staff.

“Anything can happen at a weekend. If you look at the balance we have at the back, Warrick Gelant is a similar player to Willie le Roux. If you give him an opportunity and space, he can punish you,” Stick said.

“We know what Makazole (Mapimpi) can do, and Sbu Nkosi is also getting an opportunity, and we saw what he did against Argentina. “We know Schalk is a hooker, but he is a good footballer. He was told before the World Cup that chances are he might get an opportunity at eight, and he was up for the challenge. He is a very exciting player.

“It is also good to see Flo (Francois Louw), who has massive experience. And if you look at Kwagga Smith, who comes from sevens – if we say Namibia is coming with a high-tempo game, Kwagga is one of the best guys to handle that kind of pressure. We need to make sure we put in the numbers (of minutes) for the players, because if we make it to the play-offs, players won’t get stale. Sbu Nkosi can play any game, but unfortunately, we can’t field everyone.”

The Springboks take on Namibia at 11h45 South African time on Saturday morning.

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