The Springboks are determined to make Heritage Day extra special for their South African fans on Saturday when they battle it out with Argentina for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship title in front of a packed Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said the team would tune in to watch the clash between Australia and New Zealand in the morning to see exactly what the permutations would be for the Boks to win the title. They are currently tied on 14 log points with New Zealand and trail them by 13 points on points’ difference.
“It will be a big day in South Africa being Heritage Day,” said Kolisi.
“For us, diversity is something that we celebrate as a group, with our different races and cultures, and it would be great to see that come together, while thanking our supporters and the people of South Africa.
“The match is going to be special for several reasons, it’s not only a final for us, it is Heritage Day and we are playing at home after a long time away.”
Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick also emphasised the significance of celebrating their diversity and said: “It’s going to be a special day for us with all the differences in our country and within our team in terms of races and cultures, and what makes this particularly special for us a group is that it shows that our rugby system is working well.
“I have no doubt a lot of South Africans will have braais tomorrow and hopefully we can help them forget about all their problems for 80 minutes.”
Adding to the significance of the occasion Stick said: “We won the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the last time we won the Castle Lager Rugby Championship it is was in Argentina, and when we won the Castle Lager Lions Series, it was in front of an empty stadium, so this is the first time in a long time that – if things go well for us – we could celebrate with our supporters.”
While they admitted it would be massive for the team to win the competition, they expected a daunting challenge against the Pumas, who are also still currently in the title race.
“We’re definitely going to watch the morning game – we need to know what happens in that match so that we know what we need to do against Argentina, and the same applies to them,” said Kolisi.
“As things stand all four teams can still win the competition, but regardless of what happens in the match between Australia and New Zealand, it will still be a proper final for us and the Pumas.”
Commenting on the challenge Argentina posed, Kolisi said: “I don’t think they’ll change their mindset going into this game. Their scrums went well last week, and they would have worked on their mauls. And depending on the outcome of the other match they may have a chance of winning the competition for the first time.”
Stick spoke equally highly of the opposition and said: “If we don’t pitch up, they will punish us, so we will definitely not underestimate them. There is a massive respect between the teams and there isn’t a better occasion to try to contest for the title in front of a packed Hollywoodbets Kings Park.”
Stick was also excited to see Frans Steyn get an extended run at flyhalf again and said:
“Frans is a similar player to Damian Willemse in that he can play fullback, flyhalf and centre. He is a mature player and he knows our game plan and systems really well. He is also a special player and the fact that he has been playing top level rugby for more than 15 years shows the quality of the player he is.”