Springboks step up tempo ahead of the All Blacks showdown
The Springboks and the All Blacks have been involved in some tight contests in their last four meetings with just one point separating them over that period.
Almost forgotten now however‚ is the teams’ last clash in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) when the Boks ran the eventual champions unexpectedly close in the semi-finals in London four years ago.
Given the sins the Boks committed earlier in that tournament‚ the semi-final quickly drifted into the mists of time but Bok tighthead prop and general strongman Frans Malherbe was asked in what standing the Class of ’19 is compared to the team that nearly knocked the All Blacks out four years ago.
“It is difficult to compare‚ not just because it is four years later. With a competition like this but we are fully focused and there is 100 percent buy-in (from the players)‚" he said.
“It is not like we are more focused or more prepared. Or have a better attitude to the upcoming competition. They are similar in that regard.”
Another senior Bok who featured in that 20-18 defeat‚ centre Damian de Allende‚ nodded in agreement. “The vibe and the energy around the team is still the same.”
De Allende also agreed that going into a second RWC campaign is easier than the first‚ but he had a caveat.
“But the same excitement is still there for me‚" he said.
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"I don’t think we’ll ever take it for granted.
"It is nice to go to one RWC but even more special when you go to two. No matter how many you go to I think that excitement stays with you.”
Despite the stifling humidity the Boks have cranked up their preparations ahead of the clash.
Earlier this week it was revealed that No8 Duane Vermeulen lost three kilograms in a relatively light training session.
For Malherbe‚ who has a hulking 125kg frame‚ the exertions require more than a flick off a wet brow?
“It was very hot‚ especially say‚ the first week and a half‚" he said.
"I think there is a difference between weight loss and getting very dehydrated.
“It is cooler now and the humidity is high. I think we got good prep in those first 10‚ 12 days. It is important to drink water. Dropping the odd kg is not that bad.”
Although rain is predicted for Saturday’s clash he expects the pitch in the Yokohama Stadium to hold up.
“All the fields I’ve trained on so far the pitch have been amazing‚" he said.
" It is more a question of how the fields will hold more than whether it will be wet‚ slippery or sweaty‚ or whatever. I think regardless of what happens I think the pitch will hold up.”
Meanwhile‚ All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster responded to Bok assistant Matt Proudfoot’s assertion that the injured lock Brodie Retallick might play against the Boks on Saturday.
“I do not know why Matthew would think that‚” said Foster.
“He’s (Retallick) quite hard to hide from you guys‚ a six-foot-five (two-metre) monster‚ we haven’t been sneaking him into training or anything like that.
"He is progressing really strongly but I’m pretty sure he won’t be there on Saturday‚” said Foster before playfully adding: “But who knows?”