Johannesburg - The Springboks arrived in Brisbane ahead of their Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies knowing one thing - they have to find a way to win.
Coach Rassie Erasmus made no bones about it after their horror display in Mendoza where they went down against the Pumas after dominating them in Durban the week before, according to supersport.com website.
And now with the toughest part of the Rugby Championship lying ahead of them, the Boks know there is only one way to rectify it, and that is to win.
The necessity for a good performance was heightened by Mendoza’s failings, but also as the real test of any progress under Erasmus will come a week later in Wellington, when they face the All Blacks.
The Boks have been trying to build a larger squad ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup, but Erasmus knows the next two weeks will determine the mood before their two home Tests against Australia and New Zealand.
Erasmus admitted the pressure is on the side, but that Australia may be more desperate because of the two big losses they had in the Bledisloe Cup games against the All Blacks.
“Australia are very much, maybe in a worse position than we are with the two games they have had. They played the World Champions and they gave them a proper hiding and that will make them dangerous. They are desperate but we are desperate as well. We lost against a team who we didn’t want to lose against so I think it will be two teams trying their best to rectify the previous weeks’ mistakes and those playing at home will just make it tougher for us,” he said.
“We are ready and up for the challenge and we know the only way to get last week’s result out of our heads is to win.”
The pressure barometer has risen sharply for the Boks but Erasmus is confident the team will respond accordingly when they get onto the field in Brisbane.
“When you lose the pressure is more. We are here to build and everyone always says those things. We must win, that’s the end of the game. And if you lose there is pressure, every game you lose, it doesn’t matter when. Even if you lose against the All Blacks by one point, there will be pressure.
The pressure is definitely on us to perform better and to win and the players understand that. I’m pretty sure the training and the effort on Saturday will show that,” he added.
One thing is for sure, the Boks are likely to field a more conservative side that mirrored their team in the England series, with Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel likely to return to the midfield, while Pieter-Steph du Toit could become part of a rejigged loose trio to add some physicality. Erasmus also hinted that Bulls fetcher Marco van Staden could also come into the mix.
“I myself have been mulling around with that. Obviously because we had Duane (Vermeulen) there and we were trying a few things. I thought it went very well in Durban, but it didn’t go so well, not only in the loose forwards, but in various times the team were not so accurate as in Durban.
Overall it is just a team thing we have to sort out, that loose trio combination can go far but we have some options at least. Pieter-Steph (du Toit) can was wonderful when he came on, Marco van Staden somewhere deserves a chance. Yes they didn’t fire last Saturday.
“If we won in Argentina, we were going to make quite a few changes in this match to test a few things without disrespecting Australia. We put ourselves in a position now where we have to win at all costs, which is always the case in a Springbok jersey but we will experiment much less than we would have. But we will make a few changes.”
Erasmus added that he was still looking for his strongest combination, despite the results so far.
“When I say strongest team, we aren’t sure every week which is our strongest team if we have to play a World Cup final tomorrow. So when I am saying experimenting, it is definitely not taking one player who is 10 times worse than another player and putting him in there.
It is actually more putting him in there and seeing how he does in that combination, how is he handling this pressure? How is he handling the high ball? So it is isn’t experimenting for the sake of experimenting, but rather finding out who our best guys are.”
The Boks will be under pressure in Brisbane, where their record isn’t great against Australia and where they last won in 2013.
But they know they need a good performance to send them into the All Black showdown with confidence.
And despite the difficulties of winning in Australia, they will need a way to find their own form first, if they are going to target a victory in Saturday’s game.