Stick gives a glimpse of the SA A team's goals in clash against the British & Irish Lions
The SA A team due to take on the British & Irish Lions may in look and feel resemble the Springboks‚ but the home side will not treat the clash at the Cape Town Stadium as a Test.
The first Test is due to take place only on 24 July and Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick was keen to point to the team's primary objectives on Tuesday.
“For us it is an SA A game. I don't know how the Lions will look at it. The most important thing for us is to get better from when we faced Georgia. There are certain boxes we really want to tick. How we start the game. Against Georgia we didn't start well. We have to chase an 80-minute performance‚” Stick said as he gave a glimpse of the SA A team's goals.
With Covid-19 infections bringing a halt to their on-field preparations last week‚ the team simply have not had the time to get into the match day nitty-gritty.
“We have to simplify the plan‚” insisted Stick. “That is the most important thing. There were six days last week when we didn't train. We don't want to overload the players with information. As coaching staff and leaders in the group we have made sure we simplify things.”
There are‚ of course‚ other considerations for adopting a very basic approach for Wednesday's clash. With many of the South African players on display also likely to feature in the first Test‚ the Bok brains trust would be wary of giving away too much of their tactical blueprint in a midweek game.
Stick said the team would welcome the opportunity to play another warm-up game on Saturday. “There are rumours we are playing the Bulls. We will take any opportunity we can to prepare.”
Captain for Wednesday's game Lukhanyo Am also stressed the need to approach the game as a fit-for-purpose exercise.
“We lost out on the Georgia game last week‚” Am said. “This game is massive for us with the series ahead.”
With so many Boks on show‚ there will at least be familiarity. Five players in the backline started in the last World Cup final.
“There's lots of experience in our backline. We know what we are capable of. But it has been a long time, we haven't been together as a group‚” said Am.
The Lions have named a team that features 12 changes from the one that beat the Sharks for a second time. Captain Conor Murray gets his first start of the tour in a team in which Anthony Watson‚ Dan Biggar and Chris Harris are the only players who have retained their places.
Watson‚ however‚ shifts to fullback while Harris will now play inside centre.
“They are a well-balanced team when it comes to the physical side of the game‚” Stick said. “They've got physical players like Bundee Aki and also Dan Biggar at flyhalf. Their outside backs are very dangerous.
“I can't say anything about their weaknesses‚ that means we have to be at our best. The team that adapts best and takes opportunities will stand better chance of winning.”
Though the SA A team‚ and in a wider context the Bok group‚ features several players who scaled the game's highest peak in the shadow of Mount Fuji in 2019‚ Stick stressed its is time to move on from glories past.
“It is time for us to write a new chapter in our journey.”
SA A — Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe‚ Lukhanyo Am‚ Damian de Allende‚ Sbu Nkosi; Morné Steyn‚ Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Marco van Staden, Franco Mostert‚ Eben Etzebeth; Trevor Nyakane‚ Joseph Dweba‚ Steven Kitshoff.
Substitutes: Malcolm Marx‚ Coenie Oosthuizen‚ Vincent Koch‚ Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg‚ Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies‚ Jesse Kriel‚ Damian Willemse‚ Kwagga Smith‚ Elton Jantjies.
B & I Lions — Anthony Watson, Louis Rees-Zammit‚ Chris Harris‚ Bundee Aki‚ Josh Adams, Dan Biggar‚ Conor Murray (captain), Taulupe Faletau‚ Tom Curry‚ Josh Navidi, Iain Henderson‚ Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler‚ Ken Owens‚ Wyn Jones.
Substitutes: Luke Cowan-Dickie‚ Mako Vunipola‚ Zander Fagerson‚ Adam Beard‚ Tadhg Beirne‚ Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies‚ Elliot Daly.
Referee: Jaco Peyper