VIDEO: Boks geared for 'four seasons in one day'
Following three weeks of summer-like conditions, South Africa received a ‘frosty’ welcome at the French national stadium, Stade de France, on Friday.
Arriving at the iconic venue for the traditional captain’s run the day before facing Ireland in a crucial World Cup Pool B match, they were greeted with autumnal rain.
The cooler and wetter conditions follow the unseasonal heatwave that swept over France since the Springboks’ arrival at the beginning of the month three weeks ago – with temperatures mostly in the high 20s [°C] and low 30s [°C], not to mention the depressing humidity.
However, Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said they had been preparing for this sudden variation in conditions.
“When we were in Toulon, and also in Corsica [for a pre-tournament camp] we were working in very, very warm conditions,” Stick told @rugby365com when asked if they were ‘enjoying’ the cooler conditions.
“To come to Paris under these cool conditions, we are enjoying it.
“But even when we were training Corsica, we were always trying to make our balls wet, because we expected conditions like this,” Stick added.
He reminded the media – those from South Africa – that such abrupt changes are not uncommon to the players.
“If you come from South Africa, there are places called PE [Port Elizabeth] and Cape Town,” he quipped.
“[There] you can get four different weathers [seasons] in one day.
“This [change in conditions] won’t be a challenge for us.
“A lot of the guys [Boks] are used to these conditions.
“However, irrespective of whether it is dry or wet, we will be well prepared for the game.”
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The Boks head into the match on the back of a hard-fought 18-3 win over Scotland and a rather more straightforward 76-0 thrashing of Romania.
The Irish, who beat South Africa in Dublin in November, are a different class – having beaten Romania 82-8 inthe Pool B opener at Stade de Bordeaux and cruised past Tonga (59-16) in Nantes.
“We are playing against the best team in the world,” said Stick, adding that there was a marked difference to playing the game in Paris.
“They are not No.1 [the world] for nothing, surely they are doing something right.
“They are a well-organised nation when playing at home.
“The World Cup is a different story.
“We have to play to our strengths.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much change in how we play the game.
“In a World Cu,p you can get different challenges and you have to adapt.
“We can adapt.
(WATCH as South African assistant coach Mzwandile Stick explains why a sudden change in conditions won’t discourage the Springboks in their World Cup Pool B crunch encounter with Ireland…)
“We are so solution-driven, that is the strength of our team.”
The daily staple of the media has come to question the Boks’ seven-one split (in favour of the forwards) on the bench.
“It’s a World Cup, the biggest tournament you can get involved in,” Stick said.
“If you don’t get people talking about your team, then maybe you are doing something wrong.
“When people talk about the Springboks, it shows people are interested in what we do.
“We just focus on our strengths and what works for us.
“Sometimes it is not always seven-one but for this game, knowing the challenge that lies ahead and the quality of Ireland, we just wanted to make sure we have got fresh legs on the field.”