British & Irish Lions

Springbok playbook hasn't changed, says Stick, but it'll take some stopping: 'Physicality is in our DNA'

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Siya Kolisi and Mzwandile Stick during the Springbok Showdown post-match press conference at Newlands on 3 October 2020.
Siya Kolisi and Mzwandile Stick during the Springbok Showdown post-match press conference at Newlands on 3 October 2020.
Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

There are no prizes for guessing how the Springboks will approach their two Tests against Georgia starting this Friday and the three against the British and Irish Lions later this month.

Although they've not touched the ball in an international game for 20 months, the Springboks are sure of how they want to play, and that's to dominate physical collisions as they've always done.

It would be foolish to rip up a playbook that brought success at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

READ | Gatland says Lions not mentally affected by SA's Covid situation: 'The focus is on the rugby'

And that's the approach assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said the team would take ahead of the first Test at Loftus against what's expected to be a physical Georgian side.

"There are certain things we can't change," said Stick.

"When it comes to our game plan, how we approach the game, without giving much away, there are certain things we can't neglect.

"The physical side of the game is part of our DNA. If you go back into the history of South African rugby, from how we won the World Cup in 1995 to 2007, we usually have physical forwards and guys that can dominate collisions.

"That is one of our strengths, and I don't think we are going to drift away from that. The truth is that we are going to be challenged tomorrow (Friday).

"We know Georgians take a lot of pride when it comes to the physical side of the game; they've got solid set-pieces and, when it comes to them being motivated to play the Springboks, we know they are going to come hard against us."

The Bok game plan was laid bare during the Chasing the Sun documentary that was aired globally last year.

The advent of social media and other easily accessible media tools have also allowed many to dissect how they won the World Cup in Japan with unprecedented granularity.

But South Africa has included a couple of players with exceptional individual quality, such as Aphelele "Weekend Special" Fassi and Rosko "Specmagic" Specman, who start on the wings.

The technical team, according to Stick, has given these players a boarding pass to run their opponents ragged should space and opportunity present itself.

"We are not really going to change that much, but we always try to empower the players to express themselves," Stick said.

"If you look at the debutants selected like Rosko. He's an X-factor player, so you can't tell how he's going to step when he has the ball. The same goes for Fassi.

"As coaches, we prepare them as best as possible, but they must still bring their 'circus act' into the game."

Bok captain Siya Kolisi agreed with Stick on the team needing to tear down the structure, even though anyone can guess what's coming.

It's stopping it that will prove a real test.

"There are tweaks here and there, but our game plan hasn't changed," said Kolisi.

"The same physicality, the same work rate and all the things you don't need talent for, it's all in play. We're looking for warriors in the team, and that's how the team has been chosen.

"We want to make sure we do everything we can within the system [but] the coach wants players to be able to express themselves."


South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse


15 Davit Niniashvili, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Demur Tapladze, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhaidze, 8 Tornike Jalagonia, 7 Beka Saginadze, 6 Giorgi Tsutskiridze, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Gigauri Davit, 3 Giorgi Melikidze, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Guram Gogichashvili

Substitutes: 16 Giorgi Chkoidze, 17 Nikoloz Khatiashvili, 18 Luka Japaridze, 19 Nodar Cheishvili, 20 Giorgi Javakhia, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Giorgi Babunashvili, 23 Ilia Spanderashvili

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