Johannesburg - Now that they have crossed a psychological frontier by beating New Zealand the Springboks are determined not to waste that platform by taking a backward step in the two home Rugby Championship matches that will complete their southern hemisphere season.
Siya Kolisi’s team are in Port Elizabeth this week preparing to face the Wallabies at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and then they head to Pretoria for what has now become an eagerly awaited return clash with the All Black team they pipped by two points in Wellington, according to the supersport.com website.
According to scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, the squad is only too aware of the past tendency of blowing the chance to pick up momentum by being inconsistent. He believes that the Boks proved something to themselves against the All Blacks, but need to retain that belief by backing up against an Australian team that over the past few years has tended to bring out the worst in the South Africans.
“We spoke about consistency (after the All Black game) and the need to back up performances,” said De Klerk.
“Our goal this week is not just to play better and to win, but to improve completely on our performance against the All Blacks. It is no use proving you can beat the All Blacks if you go and lose your next game and don’t perform consistently against the other teams. In the Wellington game we realised our potential as a team. That was what I was hoping for from the guys - that we would prove to ourselves that we can beat the All Blacks.
“But we have set a high bar now and we know we have to keep it going. What the win did was give us belief in our structures and what we are doing. We need to feed off that belief and build on what we did in Wellington over the next two weeks. If we can do that then we would have taken a big step towards doing well at next year’s World Cup.”
The World Cup remains the bigger picture for the Boks, and while the win in New Zealand showed the management and the players just what an effect a good result can have on the mood of the country, that does not mean coach Rassie Erasmus is going to abandon his plan of testing his playing depth.
He said a couple of weeks ago that it will be on the forthcoming end of year tour, which features games against England, France, Scotland and Wales, that he settles on his best combination and starts the real build-up for next year's global tournament in Japan. Playing at home over the next two weeks, even against the toughest opposition, does give him a bit of leeway though the attitude will still be that a win is an absolute imperative.
“We showed what we can do when we beat the All Blacks and we know that we have heightened the expectations as we head into these next two games,” said Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick.
“The main thing though is that we have our own team goals and we are sticking to our plan. It was a great win but we are not getting carried away by it. We know we have a lot of improving to do. We still have our eyes on the bigger picture and to that end we could still see a couple of (team) changes over the next few weeks.
“But we know how important the win was for the country and it was good for South African rugby. It was great to give our supporters something to be proud of and we will never take that support for granted. We could feel it (the enthusiasm) when we arrived back in the country.”
Port Elizabeth is Stick’s home city but that is not the only reason he sees it as a special place and Saturday’s game as a special occasion.
“We are playing in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium during the 100 year anniversary of Madiba’s birth. It is a stadium where the Boks haven’t lost, there was just one draw against England in 2012 since the stadium was opened in 2009. I’ve been in the stadium as a supporter and know how passionate the fans are. We want to keep that unbeaten record intact.”
According to De Klerk that unbeaten record and being back on home soil does not translate into extra pressure for the team.? “I wouldn’t say there is extra pressure,” he said, “I would say it gives us confidence.”