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'We're not where we were compared to 2019' - Coach's concern for Springboks

Mzwandile Stick also spoke of the squad’s desire to offer the people of South Africa hope amid ongoing rioting in the country.

The Springboks haven't played since beating Georgia on 2 July.
The Springboks haven't played since beating Georgia on 2 July.
Image: PA

SOUTH AFRICA ASSISTANT coach Mzwandile Stick says they do not yet have any further clarity on whether the South Africa A team will have another warm-up fixture this weekend, following Rassie Erasmus’ calls for a second game against the British and Irish Lions.

South Africa A take on the Lions in Cape Town tomorrow, and on Monday Erasmus said another game between the two teams this Saturday would be the “safest option” for all involved. The Lions are currently scheduled to play the Stormers on Saturday, with the Lions camp insisting that fixture will go ahead as planned.

Erasmus also highlighted a lack of match fitness as a concern for the Springboks, stressing the need for the group to get some high-intensity warm-up games under their belt. Reports in South Africa suggest Erasmus won’t get his wish this weekend, with the Bulls instead being lined up as South Africa A’s next opponents.

And speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game between South Africa A and the Lions, assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said the group still don’t know who they will play this weekend, while also reiterating Erasmus’ concerns regarding the squad’s preparations.

“We’re not where we were compared to 2019 and the World Cup final,” Stick said.

“I still think we’ve got a lot of room for improvement and any opportunity we can get as a team to make sure we get some practice games towards the (Test) series will surely be appreciated.

“When it comes to the decision on the warm-up game against the British and Irish Lions (on Saturday), I think we as coaches are just focused on what is between the four lines (of the pitch).

The executives, with Rassie as a director, they are dealing with that stuff and at the moment we haven’t heard any report back from them, but if we get an opportunity to play on Saturday – irrespective of whether it’s the British and Irish Lions, because I’ve seen the rumours about us playing against the Bulls – any opportunity we get as a team, we will make sure that we take it and hopefully get closer to where we want to be when it comes to that first Test game.”

While Covid has wreaked havoc on the Springboks’ preparations for the Test series, far more serious matters have occupied minds in South Africa this week.

The imprisonment of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has triggered some of the worst violence the country has seen for years, with rioting spreading from the KwaZulu-Natal province to Gauteng and Johannesburg, with the death toll reaching 45 earlier today.

“You know what, we are are actually living in a very sad time currently with what we see on social media and in the news on TV,” Stick said.

“I think that’s actually one of the main things (we do), and what we live for as Springboks – we just want to put smiles on people’s faces and give them hope. 

“I will never forget the images of the streets after we won the World Cup where everyone, pink, black, white, brown, yellow, were only just speaking one language: rugby. Everyone was happy at that time, and those are the moments we want to create in South Africa. That’s the kind of hope we want to build.

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“With everything that we see happening now, it is very very sad, but our job is to make sure that if we can get an opportunity as a Springbok team to unite the country and put a smile on people’s faces, that’s what we live for.

“So hopefully we can do that by playing the British and Irish Lions, and show the people of South Africa that once we work together, and start spreading some positive energy amongst each other, then anything is possible and we can achieve anything as a country. 

“Hopefully we can put a smile on people’s faces tomorrow and make sure that we get people united behind the team, and also that everything that is happening will hopefully stop soon.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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