While he acknowledges that the Boks’ experience is a plus, Schalk Burger says this won’t be as game-shaping as accuracy and consistency in Sunday’s do-or-die meeting with the Wallabies.
The core of this Bok side has been together since 2004. They’ve won two Tri-Nations tournaments, a series against the British& Irish Lions, and the greatest prize of them all, the World Cup. A couple of these players have featured in more than 100 Tests, while several others boast 70-plus caps.
The Wallabies are inexperienced by comparison. They do have a few seasoned players like Nathan Sharpe, and as a unit they’ve shown that they’re capable of winning big tournaments like the Tri-Nations.
And yet, there’s reasonable doubt that this predominately young side will handle the pressure that characterises a World Cup play-off.
The Boks have done it before, and many of the men that won the World Cup final in 2007 will start against the Wallabies this Sunday. Burger is one such player, but when asked about the contrasting experience of the two teams, he said that the Boks don’t see it as having a distinct advantage.
‘If we win on Sunday it will be because of experience, but if we lose it will be because we’re too old,’ Burger chuckled before adopting a more serious tone. ‘No, it’s more about accuracy.
‘It helps to have been in the situation before, but caps aren’t going to win you the game. When it’s tight you have to hope that individuals make the right decisions and don’t make mistakes. In those situations it doesn’t matter if you have five caps or 100, you have to do the basics correctly.’
The Wallabies won the last encounter between the two teams, and Burger admitted that loss was still in the back of the Boks’ minds. The Bok flanker said that the side underperformed on that day in Durban, and that improvements have been made since.
Not one to get too flustered at the most trying of times, Burger said he is looking forward to a good forward scrap against familiar Tri-Nations foes, and also hopes that the Wellington weather allows for a more free-flowing game.
‘When it’s wet and windy like it was at training today, territory is so important. But it seems like the weather will be better on Sunday, and hopefully we can have an enterprising spectacle.
‘The way the breakdown has been interpreted at this tournament has been 70-30 in favour of the attacking team, which is a good balance. Hopefully the ref blows according to that balance and we will have a good game of rugby,’ he said.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Wellington