How Boks' training week 'like no other' helped them beat British & Irish Lions
A training week like no other helped lay the platform for the Springboks' 27-9 victory over the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
Bok captain Siya Kolisi‚ who produced a stellar performance in the Bok back row, and loose head prop Steven Kitshoff‚ who ran out in front in his 50th game‚ were in no doubt the examples of the improvements made on the training pitch and were transferred to match day as the Springboks levelled the three-Test series.
“We had the right attitude to rectify that. It started at training‚” noted Kolisi.
“It was a lot of hard work during the week‚” recalled Kitshoff. “Especially after last week's disappointment. We had a hard look in the mirror. This week's training was one of the better ones I have experienced in the Bok jersey. It was a team performance. All the players, one to 23, rocked up and gave it their all.”
After going one-nil down in the first Test the realisation set in that defeat in the series would simply be unpalatable. “We realised how important this is. Not just for us but our families and the country. We had to perform to get the result‚” said Kitshoff.
Outside centre Lukhanyo Am, who delivered another performance from the top drawer, also felt the Boks got reward commensurate with what they put in on the training field.
“It was so rewarding after putting in hard work. We are chuffed. We will now go back to the drawing board and fix what we can to get a better performance‚” warned Am.
Kitshoff said the balance tilted decisively in SA's favour because they were patient‚ and he used a cricket analogy to get his point across.
“It was a game of big moments. A few incidents could have gone either way. We did what we could to get the rub of the green. We knew we needed to pick up the tempo in the second half. We had to scrum‚ ruck and maul well. Those aspects needed to function well to get the momentum and dominance towards the end of the game.
“It's like building an innings in cricket. You apply pressure. You want the dam wall to break. Keep scrum‚ line-out and maul pressure. We have a pressure game we back 100%. You could see this was going to be a physical battle.”
Coach Jacques Nienaber was pleased with a team growing in stature‚ and experience.
“There are players coming into milestone games and it's incredible to have players with that kind of experience‚” said Nienaber in reference to Handré Pollard reaching 50 caps last week and Kitshoff this week.
He pointed out how his senior players were able to troubleshoot their way through last week's shortfalls.
“Players came up with things to rectify matters. I should give my win bonuses to them. They are creative. I feel more like a facilitator.”