John Smit says beating the All Blacks twice in as many weeks would be massive for the Springboks’ Tri-Nations title ambitions.
The Springboks have their best opportunity in recent history to beat the All Blacks in two successive Tests, before facing an Australia team in transition in Cape Town next week.
Having recovered from travel fatigue and acclimatising to new surrounds, the Blacks will pose a far sterner challenge than they did in Bloemfontein a week ago. Smith is acutely aware of this, but still habours ambitions of recording a rare double over them.
‘[Beating the Blacks] is paramount to what sort of success we hope to have in the Tri-Nations,’ Smit told keo.co.za.
‘I don’t think there are far greater challenges than facing the All Blacks two weeks in a row. It used to be norm some time back. People sitting on their couches are saying this is what Test rugby should be about.’
Smit fully expects an almighty counterstrike from the wounded Blacks.
‘We can take for granted that they are never going to be satisfied after last week’s game and there will be a backlash from them,’ he said.
‘Them not being themselves last week is something we have factored into how we prepared for this Test mentally. They’ll be a far better team and we just have to make sure we take our game a gear up.’
Winning all their home games would leave the Springboks with the likely scenario of having to win just one of their three tour matches, with two of those being played in Australia, where they have a better recent record than they do in New Zealand.
Smit, however, stressed that they weren’t looking beyond the King’s Park Test on Saturday.
‘It’s way to early to talk about a clean sweep [of home matches]. Every team in this competition wants to make sure they don’t falter on their home games. We want to follow through on home ground advantage. We have to go one game at a time here.’
With rain forecast for match day, what promised to be a fairly open match is now likely to be more of an arm wrestle, with strong forward play taking precedence over panache in the back division. The perception is that this style will better suit the Springboks, but Smit argued against that perception.
‘We think back to first Tri-Nations Test [between the Blacks and Australia] where weather played such a big role. All three teams can adapt to conditions. It’s just another factor that has to be worked in,’ he said.
‘We will probably have a bit of rain and it will be a lot cooler. Everyone wants to see a game that goes from side to side and is only decided in the last minute, and the rain will help that.’
Smit will become the world’s most capped captain when he leads the Springboks out for the 60th time on Saturday, but he was reluctant to speak about the record, as he was the suggestion that he was at the helm of a golden generation of Springboks.
‘The important thing for us is perhaps we need to listen as little as possible to that. When you talk abut golden eras of teams it’s normally spoken about in hindsight,’ he said.
‘The more we hear about how good we are and what we should be doing, the worse it will be for us. I’m
tasked as captain to keep perspective. The more we think about milestones and eras, the less we’ll think about what needs to be done today.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Durban