Cape Town - The Springboks have made a bit of a habit in the past of not closing out winning series in the style that perhaps their superiority over the opposition should have demanded, but skipper Siya Kolisi says that if it happens this time it won’t be because of complacency.
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The Boks go into the final test against England at Newlands on Saturday with an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, just as they did when they went into the final game of the 2012 series in Port Elizabeth.
In that game six years ago the Boks produced a flat performance and with England being equally limp, the sides fought out an uninspiring stalemate that was an underwhelming note for the series to end with.
Those players who were involved then have not forgotten how flat the end to an otherwise successful series felt, and Kolisi says his team is determined not to repeat that experience or for that matter the 2009 series finale against the British and Irish Lions.
In that match, played at Emirates Airlines Park, the Bok coach Peter de Villiers made 10 changes to his starting team, and the Lions comfortably won what was something of a surreal contest and it was they who claimed bragging rights at the post-tour dinner afterwards.
Kolisi says he and his teammates are determined to end this successful series in fitting style and if they lose, it won’t be for lack of effort.
“We have spoken about that (warding off complacency) and we know we can’t relax,” said the Bok captain on the eve of the final test of his first series as team leader.
“We have seen over the past two matches how good England can be and how much trouble we can be in if we are not 100 percent switched on. We have learnt from the way we have started the last two games where we fell behind early.”
Kolisi said that with a close to two month recess coming up before the Boks next see action in the opening Rugby Championship clash with the Pumas in Durban, it is important that team finishes off the series strongly.
“We have got to finish off properly and leave a good taste in the mouth. It is not just a case of winning or losing, but ensuring we go into the recess knowing that we gave it our best shot and left nothing out there on the field.”
Kolisi agreed with head coach Rassie Erasmus that the Boks could face a stiffer challenge with Danny Cipriani installed as the England flyhalf.
“You can’t change too much in a week but Cipriani does play out of the box and is a very different kind of player to George Ford. England are doing a lot of things they didn’t do in the Six Nations and we know we are going to have to be on top of our game from the outset. If we want to win we will need to bring intensity from the start for we know how well England can play.”
Although the Boks have made five changes for the final test, Kolisi says there won’t be much of a change to the team’s approach at Newlands.
“There won’t be any change from the first two tests. Luckily every guy in the camp right now has played at least one game for the Boks. It is all about effort and we have been working at keeping standards similar across all the games,” he said.
“For us this is just another game we have to go all out to win because we want to improve each week. We have won the series, but we are not where we want to be. We are happy to have improved on where we were a few months ago, but there is a strong motivation within the squad to get better and better. The way we have started each week has been concerning, and that for a start is something we want to change.
“Our aim is to become a balanced team so there are several things we have been working on to make us a fully balanced team. For instance our D (defence) was lacking last week and the week before so it is something we have put an extra effort into this week.”
When it comes to the captaincy role, Kolisi made it clear that the coach has eased some of the pressure by instructing him to just focus on his own game, and in that regard he gets by with a little help from his friends.
“When I was announced as captain I was very nervous because being captain of SA and captain of your (provincial) union are two entirely different things. It is a huge responsibility to lead my country, with the whole country watching me. But the coach has narrowed it down for me. He says all he cares about is my performance and the effort I put in on the field.
“Like it was at the Stormers when I first started there (as captain), the other guys, the players who have led at their franchises, have helped take the pressure off me and allowed me to focus on my game. I don’t think I have ever been better prepared for a test as I was for the first test. We did a lot of computer work while the other players were away (in Washington playing Wales). All the focus now is on finishing the series well by winning this game. We are not looking long term.”
What has become obvious over the past two test matches is that Duane Vermeulen is doing a lot of the talking on the field, and Handre Pollard, the leader of the backs, is also pretty vocal when it is necessary to be. Kolisi says both players have been a huge help to him.
“Duane has been huge for us not only in the way he has been supporting me in the captaincy role but also because of the player he is on the field,” said Kolisi.
“Duane comes in when I am talking to the team and am at a loss for what to say. Handre too. There are no egos. Duane has been huge in the leadership role. I am really happy and proud at how the team has been going, but as I said earlier, we have one more game and we want to be better than we have been.
“There are so many things we can be better at. We want to lessen our mistakes and I will let you know how I feel about it (overall) after the game on Saturday,” he added.
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