Why the Boks will be making teams sit up and take notice is the unpredictability factor that they bring to every match.
The unpredictability of the Springboks under coach Jacques Nienaber and SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will be their biggest weapon at the World Cup in France next month.
The defending champions will head into the showpiece event on a massive high and full of momentum after registering two record-breaking wins — a 52-16 victory against Wales in Cardiff and then a brilliant 35-7 triumph over the All Blacks at Twickenham this past Friday.
Despite the two high-quality performances in Europe over the last fortnight, Nienaber said the Boks still had work to do before their World Cup opening game against Scotland in Marseille on September 10.
“This was a proper test, and it was exactly what we wanted before the World Cup,” said Nienaber.
“Wales play a different style of rugby to New Zealand, who pride themselves on their high intensity and high tempo game, so it was good preparation for us (facing both).
“That said, we have hard work ahead before the World Cup. We had several opportunities to score tries which we didn’t convert, so we’ll zoom in on that in Corsica (the Boks’ training base for the next week) and hopefully we can improve on that before our opening match.”
Why the Boks will be making teams sit up and take notice is the unpredictability factor that they bring to every match, as the All Blacks learnt the hard way at Twickenham with them being surprised on two fronts.
The first surprise saw the Boks turn down multiple chances for easy points from the kicking tee to put the All Blacks under tremendous early pressure during the game, and although it didn’t immediately pay off, they eventually hit their groove to power away.
Whether that decision was due to the team management being slightly worried about flyhalf Manie Libbok’s goal kicking is up for interpretation, but if it was, Libbok had the perfect response by nailing all five of his kicks on the night.
The other big surprise came when fullback Willie le Roux was pulled out of the match 23 just before the game due to a niggle and was replaced by Kwagga Smith on the bench with it being the first time in professional rugby that a team had opted for a 7-1 split of forwards to backs on the bench.
The gamble paid off as it was the monstrous forward effort that laid the platform for the huge win and this could now be a possible game plan for the Boks in France.
“I don’t know if we will take that risk going forward,” said Nienaber, “but it’s something we’ll look at and consider. Especially with all the yellow and red cards, it’s something we’ve been looking at.”
The Boks are no strangers to shaking up the apple cart as it was at the 2019 World Cup that they made the 6-2 split famous with their bomb squad, while their unpredictability also caught England cold in the final.