VIDEO: The crowd factor Down Under
FROM THE BOK CAMP: South Africa will have to deal with another ‘weird’ feature during their Rugby Championship match against Australia on Sunday.
The Springboks have not played in front of a packed stadium since winning the World Cup on November 2, 2019, in Japan.
Since then, the Boks had a COVID-19 enforced hiatus, before claiming a 2-1 Test series victory over British and Irish Lions in an empty stadium in Cape Town two months ago.
The world champions also opened their Rugby Championship with back-to-back Tests against Argentina in front of no supporters in Gqeberha.
The Boks have become accustomed to the empty stadiums.
However, this Sunday they will have to adapt in front of a very noisy Gold Coast crowd.
The vast majority of the crowd for Sunday’s match will be Wallabies’ supporters because of the country’s Covid-19 travel restriction.
Speaking to reporters in an online media briefing, Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth said he is excited about the prospect.
The 29-year-old, who played in front of fans during the French Top 14 season at Toulon, pin-pointed on-field communication as the only challenge.
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“It is going to be exciting to play in front of a crowd again, especially for the guys from South Africa who haven’t played in front of a crowd for a long time,” the 29-year-old said.
“In France, we had a crowd at the end of the Top 14.
“It is always nice the atmosphere.
“The communication on the field will not be as clear as the last couple of weeks against B&I Lions and Argentina.
“But it will be great to get the buzz from the stadium, so really excited for the Test match.”
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When asked if Springboks management have been preparing the players for the challenge the stadium fans pose, coach Jacques Nienaber conceded that they didn’t spend a lot of time dissecting the ‘weird’ matter.
“We spoke about it in lead-up to the Test match,” Nienaber said, adding: “But didn’t do anything specific to prepare.
“As a rugby player, you want to perform in front of supporters.
“It’s so funny because when the crowds were taken away we said it’s going to be weird without crowds and now they are coming back and we are saying it is going to be weird with crowds.”
Nienaber admitted that communication between players will have to improve.
“The communication will be a little difficult.
“Your micro-coms between players will have to increase.
“For instance, if I want to say something to someone that is next to Eben in the defence line, I probably will have to go through Eben to get to him now with the crowd. Whereas in the last couple of Test matches without crowds I could just say it out loud and everyone would hear.
“Think that is the only thing we have to adapt to.”
The current crop of Springboks having won the World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship and the Test series against the British and Irish Lions head into Sunday’s Test as clear favourites.
But despite the Boks current form, their winning record against the Wallabies on Australian soil is a huge conundrum.
The Boks have not won in Australia since 2013 and the last they visited was in 2018 where they suffered an 18-23 defeat to the hosts.
The defeat was in Rassie Erasmus and Nienaber’s seventh game in charge since taking over the reins.
However, this Sunday’s Boks have an opportunity to end their Aussie drought.
Nienaber said they are more aligned than compared to 2018.
“From then we implemented a new defence system in 2018,” Nienaber said.
“We were developing a new playing style and we were finding our feet. This is a lot more settled and aligned squad.
“We have been together for quite a while now and we are a lot more aligned. We were also fortunate that after 2019 we lost only three players. There is good continuity.”
The Springboks face the Wallabies on Sunday, September 12.