Every World Cup piece is falling into place with even the foul Cape weather aiding Springbok preparations for the tournament in France.
Cape Town has experienced some heavy rain over the past week and another cold front is on the way. Although he would prefer a drier plaftorm for preparation, White admitted it provides an insight into the conditions they will face up north. The Boks will also play two warm-up games against Connacht and Scotland before they leave for France.
“I suppose it can’t get worse in terms of conditions,” White said. “It’s not ideal but it’s part of the preparation. We’re off to Durban for two weeks and then it’s back to Cape Town. Training in cold weather will enhance performance, so it’s important to get the balance right. We’re off to Ireland and Scotland next where it’s colder than normal and that will also help with our preparation.”
White lauded the effort shown by his players since the squad came together last Sunday. The conditioning of the players has impressed the Bok coach as has their mental approach to an integral phase of their World Cup campaign.
“It’s been a very special week for the players. I think they were waiting with bated breath for the announcement to be made, but that has alleviated some of the pressure. I’ve seen a significant increase in intensity since then. The players are in the best shape I’ve seen since I first started as coach in 2004.
“There’s been two or three fitness sessions a week and because there are no matches to worry about the level of intensity has been exceptionally high. The players realise there’s a scientific plan and it’ll pay off in the end. In the seven week’s we’re in France we can’t concentrate on fitness, so all the hard work has to be done now.”
White has brought in former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones to consult on the technical aspects, but he is also looking to give his charges the edge in other areas. The Boks hope to have a basic understanding of the French language by the time they touch down in Paris next month.
“We have had a French teacher in to give some lessons and we plan to have her in again,” said White. “It’s just one of the little things we’d like to do before we leave and I think they will help. It could help to know what the locals are talking about or could even help in winning the French press over.”
Much has been made of White’s decision to rest his top players for the away leg of the Vodacom Tri-Nations, but it is obvious he has no regrets. Os du Randt is one who hasn’t seen much game time throughout the year, both on the Test stage and in the Super 14. Managing the big man for the World Cup has been top priority, and regardless of the return to form of Gurthro Steenkamp, White still sees Du Randt as a key figure in France.
“I believe we need Os to win the big games. If you look at the effect Jason Leonard had for England in that 2003 World Cup final, he really had a calming influence when he came on and settled the scrum. I expect Os to provide the same sort of energy.
“Not too many players in world rugby have the same presence or are respected by the opposition as much as Os du Randt. He is going into his third World Cup, and he will have a massive influence not just on the park but on the younger players as well.”
By Jon Cardinelli