LOFTUS TEST: For the Boks this is personal, but not for the reason you may think

rugby05 July 2024 14:50| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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© Gallo Images

As the Springboks take the field at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, one thing is clear - this test match is personal.

The Springboks don’t see it as revenge or unfinished business against an Ireland team that has beaten them on the last three occasions. It isn’t about getting it right.

If anything, it is about giving back to the Springbok fans who have had to watch from afar as their team conquered the world and won back-to-back World Cups.

This is the first time the Springboks will take the field on home soil since winning in France last year and as coach Rassie Erasmus points out, the game is very personal for them.

But not for the reason many may think.

Erasmus was asked by if he needed to remind the Boks of the 13-8 defeat in Paris last year ahead of this test. And his answer was a straight up no.

But then he continued to talk about what he wants the players to know, and what he wants to give back to them when the Boks play at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

“I think there are 20 out of the 23 players that were involved in the Paris game that will be playing this weekend. I really don’t need to remind them,” Erasmus said.

“For us, that wasn’t a cutthroat game, and it would have been fantastic to score in that last move. For us the heartache was that Ireland’s fans could get on a plane and fly for an hour and be at the game.

“There were 40 000 of them and our fans had to go to malls, or to a township shebeen or had to go and watch with friends who have DSTV. Ireland had that absolute support there and that was heartbreaking for us. Not because we thought we could be out or couldn’t win the World Cup.

“On the day Ireland deserved to win, we didn’t take our chances and didn’t kick well when we had kicks at posts. The rugby part is there, and we can work on it.

“But beyond that, we wanted to give back to our fans, to the people who support us. Those that found a teevee to watch because they couldn’t afford to be there. That was what hurt the most for us, that our fans weren’t able to be there.”

That sentiment was echoed by Siya Kolisi, who sees the game as a massive homecoming for the side this weekend.

“To be able to come home and play for the people and the country who we have been playing for all along is very special,” said Kolisi.

“This is the first time this specific group of players will face Ireland (with some of the newer players in the squad), and we haven’t beaten them since 2016. It’s also the first time we play on home soil, so we are really looking forward to the occasion.”

Kolisi spoke of his happiness at returning from France, where he now plays his club rugby, and settling in again in the national squad. And he spoke of the honour of leading the side into battle.

“It’s not easy (being the captain), but neither is it hard. It’s a huge honour to be the Bok captain and it is great what it means to the public and team as well,” Kolisi explained

“That said, each player in the team has a role to play and it’s an honour for us all to represent our country. As coach Rassie (Erasmus) said earlier in the week, the captaincy is not a big thing for this group, what we care about most is what happens on the field.”

Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said the Paris result would fuel the side as they try to overturn the last few results.

“It certainly fuels our motivation,” said Stick. “When we faced them before we created opportunities that could have placed us in a position to win the match. Their crowd is also always behind them.

“In that game there were things we didn’t do well, and we learned tough lessons from that, but it also brought us tighter together as a group. In fact, a lot of what we learned helped us in the match against France.

“We definitely have to rectify those mistakes and ensure that we perform better on Saturday because Ireland are a quality team and they have a way of using their chances.

“That said, what happened in the past won’t count tomorrow. The reality is that against a team like Ireland you’ll probably get five chances or so and you must use them to come out on top on the scoreboard on the day.”