Johannesburg - The Springboks are hoping the fact they are comfortable at playing knockout rugby will be their guiding light as they head into the Rugby World Cup playoffs on Saturday against Wales.
According to the supersport.com website, the Boks have had their backs to the wall since their shock loss to Japan in the opening weekend of the tournament, and have had to fight their way just to qualify for the quarterfinals, but have done so in brutal fashion as they returned to some more direct rugby for the playoff rounds.
Now that they are there, the Boks are hoping their upward curve continues as they look to hammer home the physical advantage they have had over the last few weeks and take it a step further this weekend.
Wales may have some injury worries, but the Boks believe their own confidence and comfort with their own game plan will be the key when the two sides meet for a spot in the semi-finals.
“To be brutally honest after that Japan game, every game has been a playoff for us, and the response for every single game has been a do-or-die response,” wing Bryan Habana said.
“We have known that if we had lost we were going home. Going into this weekend it is about stepping up the intensity a little more, it is about making sure our planning and preparation is sound, and improving in every area of the game, like we have been doing for the last few weeks.
“It has been a tournament of quite a few highs and lows for us, but the mentality since that first week has hopefully been one that can be seen as a positive for us this week.
“When we get to Saturday, each and every team will be on zero. It is a knockout stage and each and every team begins on zero and we understand that. Hopefully the combination of what has been working for us over the last few weeks will keep on improving and we can keep on going forward.”
Wales have been talking a lot about how their win in Cardiff last year has given them the confidence against a Springbok team, but the team that faced up in the end of season fixture will be a very different animal to the one at Twickenham on Saturday, with possibly only five or six players remaining from the dark day in Cardiff.
“We lost that game, so we need to look at what we did wrong in that game and what Wales did right and what we were not able to handle and where we need to improve,” Habana said in response to this question, reminding all he was also not available for the Cardiff game because it was outside the test window. The Boks were without their European crew, while Wales had theirs available for that game.
“Obviously there were quite a few guys who weren’t involved in that game, being outside the World Rugby window, and quite a few guys had injuries as well. If we look back at that game, I am sure there is a lot we can learn from it, and Wales have been a tough opponent.
“We were probably around 8 minutes away from losing against them in that last game in South Africa so they are a team we fully respect. A team we know will give everything against us for 85 minutes and a team we know if we don’t pitch up with a full intensity on the day, we will come out second hand.
“We respect them for what they have achieved with a lot of injuries and to see them come through the World Cup has been fantastic. We know Saturday will be a tough one and hopefully we will rise to the occasion.”
For both teams the motivation is easy. Lose and you head home, win and the next round awaits.