Boks not taking minnows Namibia lightly - and will avoid making calls in Afrikaans
In a country where everything‚ especially the language, feels as foreign as it can possibly get‚ the Springboks will be drawn even further out of their comfort zone when they meet Namibia in a Rugby World Cup (RWC) Pool B match on Saturday.
The so-called African Derby features neighbouring teams and familiarities run deep.
“It is fantastic (we are playing Namibia)‚” said stand-in captain Schalk Brits.
“Unfortunately we cannot make the calls (on the field) in Afrikaans because they understand Afrikaans‚” said Brits about arguably the Boks’ biggest concern before the match.
The Springboks are overwhelming favourites but this RWC has already served up one upset when Uruguay beat Fiji on Wednesday.
Fiji had a short turn-around following their exertions against Australia last week which taps further into the narrative that the lower you are seeded at the RWC‚ the more you have to put up with.
The task for the Boks is simple‚ they need to kick-start their RWC campaign with a convincing performance against the mostly amateur side.
Perhaps born from last week’s defeat in Yokohama‚ Brits talks about the Boks’ desire to put their processes in place.
“We had a couple of learnings against New Zealand and there are a couple of things we want to change. The focus this week was pretty much on us‚” said Brits who will curiously run out at No 8 on Saturday.
The position isn’t entirely foreign to him but the fact that he will have an eight and not a two or 16 on his back has piqued interest.
How might he adjust‚ or even cope?
“In general play I’m on the wing anyway. At the Stormers I played eight quite a bit. I used to move to eight in the second half. So it has been a while.
“With Kwagga (Smith) and Francois (Louw)‚ we have probably the shortest loose trio in world rugby but I’m looking forward to it‚” said Brits.
Earlier in the week‚ coach Rassie Erasmus was enthused by the speed of his backrow.
Despite the unwieldy look of the loose trio assistant coach Mzwandile Stick believes the Boks have their bases covered.
“If you say Namibia is going to challenge us with a high tempo game then Kwagga is one of the players that will be able to handle that. We’ve got a well balanced team. We need to bounce back and get a positive result from this game‚” said Stick.
Stick stressed another major objective for the Boks was to spread game time across their group.
“What is important is the number of minutes the players get to play. We must guard against players getting stale by the time we get to the play-offs.
“You don’t want a situation in the play-offs where a player is supposed to start and he has hardly played.”
Brits meanwhile stayed with the script that the Boks must continue to tick boxes.
“Rassie has always been focused on the process‚ irrelevant of the result. We have to be up there with our physicality and momentum point of view. I was involved in a group that lost to Japan so I know that feeling where you should win and you don’t. The training this week was intense. That is just the way prepared for this.”