Johannesburg - Springbok captain Siya Kolisi doesn’t believe that the rust that sometimes impacts on South African team after a Super Rugby bye will have an impact on his team’s chances of success in their World Cup quarter-final on 20 October.
There are 12 days separating Tuesday’s final Pool B match with the quarter-final against either Japan, Ireland or Scotland at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday week. For several of the anticipated team for that game there would actually have been a 16 day gap as although several of them got a late run off the bench against Canada, an alternative team started the final Pool match.
That’s a long time, and Kolisi did say on the eve of the Canada game in Kobe, in explaining why he was happy to be playing again just four days after leading the side to victory against Italy in Shizuoka, that he preferred to play as much as possible to sustain momentum.
“At the union I play for (in Super Rugby) we often struggle after a bye so I prefer to keep playing,” said Kolisi.
However, after the 66-7 win over Canada that confirmed the Bok place in the quarter-finals, Kolisi said a play-off game presented a different challenge and that challenge, the fact that the players would be so excited about it and therefore up for it, would negate the possible negative impacts of such a long break.
“We are heading into the deciding phase of the competition now and we are very excited as a team,” said Kolisi.
“We actually appreciate the extra week we have to prepare. It gives us time to look properly at the other teams. We will be watching pictures unfold and formulating what we need to do to beat whoever we play in the quarter-final.
“The thing is that from now on if you don’t pitch up you go home and we all know that. It introduces an edge. We look forward to watching the other teams play this weekend and seeing what they bring and what we will be up against.”
Coach Rassie Erasmus says that making a big deal of the team watching the games that will impact on who they face in the quarter-finals and asking the players to analyse their opponents will be a big part of making up for the fact that, unlike their opponents, the Boks won’t be playing an intense game this week.
“From my point of view right now, from tomorrow (Wednesday), I will be preparing for the quarter-final and preparing for three possible opponents,” said Erasmus.
“I will do my own analysis while the players are off over the next two days, and then at the weekend we will start training again and also watch the other matches together. It will be quite exciting to watch the games together, we will make a bit of a thing of it and generate a bit of excitement around it.
“Then on the Monday we will put together what we feel we learnt from the last Pool games and start using it as we go into what will be a normal test match week. We have both together now for 16 weeks so we know how to handle each other and how to get around any challenges relating to our preparation.”
Erasmus said he still wasn’t sure which team he’d prefer to face in the quarter-final, but noted that when it came to Japan a lot of homework had already been done. So it would Ireland, in particular, and Scotland to a lesser extent, that will grab his focus in the next two days while the players enjoy a much deserved two days off before returning to work on Saturday.
“We played Japan in that warm-up game before the start of the tournament so we studied them in depth then. Obviously they would have evolved their game a bit since then so we will have to take a fresh look at them, but the bulk of the analysis on Japan has been done already,” he said.
“But we will not just assume which team we are playing against and focus too much on them right now. In 2011, when I was technical adviser in the Bok management team, we prepared a lot to play against Ireland in the quarter-final, but then we ended up playing against Australia. We won’t make that same mistake again.”
Erasmus said that while it was hard to use a game against Canada as a yardstick, the 10 try to one win had advanced some of his objectives in certain areas.
“Frans Steyn got another 80 minutes and that was good as he is getting his sharpness. There’s always a question of how ready a guy is in terms of his match conditioning when he comes from the French leagues,” said the Bok coach.
“It was also good to see Siya go through a proper 80 minutes again and deliver a positive performance, while it was interesting for me to see how we went in the last quarter when we effectively had four flyhalves on the field in the form of Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard (who came on at inside centre), Frans and Damian Willemse (who started at fullback).”
“How we were able to spread the ball wide when they were all playing together gave me something to think about. It is decision making time for me now. I will select according to what we are up against in the quarter-final. Obviously different opponents will require different things from us.”
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