Fourie du Preez (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Springbok captain Fourie du Preez believes the Boks cannot be in a better position at the moment as they wait to find out who their opposition will be in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
According to the supersport.com website, the Boks are enjoying a four day hiatus ahead of a bruising build-up to the quarterfinal and will only find out on Saturday if they face the Wallabies or Wales in their next match at Twickenham next Saturday.
But while they rest and wait the other sides to fight it out this weekend as the last remaining spots in the playoff round get snapped up, Du Preez said he was pretty happy with the position the team are in at the moment.
There are some concerns that the Boks weren’t tested enough by either Scotland, Samoa or the USA and Du Preez acknowledges they will need to step up their game when the playoffs start, but it is clear that this is a very different team than it was just 20 days ago when they were shocked by Japan in Brighton.
The Bok captain is honest when he says they took their eye off the ball in the Japan game, and since then there has been nothing but focus for the team as they swept aside the other teams in their group to finish top of Pool B.
“We can’t look further than the quarter-final. That was one of our mistakes with the Japan game and we learnt a hard lesson from it,” Du Preez admits.
“All our focus will be on our next game, whoever that will be. We will need to be a lot better and we know that, but it is a process.
“We know we are on the right path. Everything depends on what happens on the day but as I said we can’t be in a better position at the moment.”
The Boks have had some very soft moments in both the Scotland and USA game where their finishing wasn’t up to scratch and they allowed the opposition to dominate matters, but these were only for small periods of play. The difference is that a better team, a more professional team would probably have made them pay for their indiscretions in terms of points, where the teams in their group have not done.
For that the team know they need to step up next week, and will need to be a lot better if they are to progress further in this tournament.
Depending on the opposition, the Boks will tweak their game plan accordingly, but with their brutal approach thus far it becomes more about how they execute, and how they take advantage of the situation than what their opposition does. If they execute well and have a strong defensive line, they will be fine.
“On the day we need to adapt to the referee, set-pieces have to work, and defence has to work. It has for the last three games. Our ball carriers are getting over the advantage line and we are doing better in terms of finishing,” Du Preez explained.
“All those aspects on the day must be firing, and the decision-making must be better.
“In all honesty it will be a tough quarter-final, but there is no reason why we can’t win that game. We have shown we can play under massive pressure, we have the set-piece, defence, the guys on the outside and great youngsters who bring energy.
“We have got older heads, so there is no reason why we can’t do it. Like 2011 though, all that counts is what happens on the day.”
Du Preez said he was satisfied with the way the team was performing and that people who said the next phase of the competition was impossible for the Boks could well be proved horribly wrong.“I am very satisfied, but impossible is a funny word. A few weeks back I wasn’t sure if was going to play rugby, and now I’m captain of the Springboks. It is a fairytale for me, so impossible is nothing,” he added.
“I’m very happy with where the team are, and we will take the next few days and return on Sunday refreshed. We know we have achieved nothing yet, but at least to get out of that hole we were in was unbelievably good.”
The Boks will get together again on Sunday to start their preparations for the quarter-final.