Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick and captain Duane Vermeulen emphasised the importance of being at the top of their game as well as being adaptable when they line up against Australia in their opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, following final on-field preparations on Friday.
Both teams will take the field for the first time this season at Fortress Loftus in a Test which both sides will target for a victory to set the tone for what is a very important season with the Rugby World Cup kicking off in September.
The visitors will have the extra motivation of possibly making history by becoming the first Australian team to win at Loftus Versfeld – a factor the Boks were well aware of.
“A Test against Australia is always big,” said Stick. “The match was sold out a long time ago, and the boys are excited. So it’s going to be a big game.
“They have a strong team and they’ll be up for it. We’ve tried to analyse them and we know what we’ve looked at won’t be 100% correct because Eddie (Jones – Australian coach) can take the players to dark places to get the best out of them.
“Having been involved with the Springboks in 2007 he also knows South Africa’s strengths, so we are expecting to face a team that is highly motivated and who will want to impress Eddie.
“They’ll come to Pretoria wanting to change history.”
Stick, however, said there was an air of excitement in the Bok camp for the clash: “There’s a big feeling of excitement in the squad, especially with it being a Rugby World Cup year. The balance of youth and experience in this team excites me, and there are some guys coming back from injury. So, I like what I’m seeing.
“That said, we know if we are not at our best, it could be a long day because this is a good Australian side and they have a lot of experienced players in the squad,” he added.
With Australia being somewhat of an unknown factor Vermeulen said he and his teammates had to be ready to for anything Australia produced on the day.
“We have to be adaptable,” said Vermeulen. “We have our plan, and they’ll have theirs, but we’ll have to see how things play out and make plans accordingly. It will come down to us stopping what they bring.”
Of being handed the captains armband, Vermeulen said: “It’s unbelievable to have the honour of leading a Springbok team, and we’ll go out there and give our best. There are a few players in the team that have captained their club or franchise teams, so we can make decisions together.”