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'The only way we know is fighting fire with fire' - Boks believe in their resilience

England are the favourites for Saturday’s World Cup final but the Boks will apply pressure.

THE SPRINGBOKS HAVE rediscovered a belief in their toughness under Rassie Erasmus.

The former Munster head coach has guided them back to traditional tactical strengths, as yesterday’s kick-heavy World Cup semi-final win over Wales underlined, but Erasmus has also focused on rebuilding the Boks’ mentality.

wales-v-south-africa-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Springboks captain Siya Kolisi celebrates reaching the World Cup final. Source: Ashley Western

Playing South Africa has historically been so difficult because they had an unshakeable belief in themselves, a resilience that guided them through tough moments towards success.

That trait has reappeared under Erasmus after vanishing in the Allister Coetzee era, when the Boks were fragile and very beatable. Often, the Boks simply collapsed in the tough times of 2016 and 2017.

Under Erasmus, the South Africans have become mentally strong and there was always a feeling last night that they would squeeze past Wales with their forwards-based power game. In the dying minutes, the Boks proved to have that mental edge.

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“South Africa’s a tough place to grow up,” explained second row Lood de Jager after his team’s 19-16 victory. “You need to bring that out. We don’t psyche each other up and bang our heads against the wall.

“It’s tough growing up in South Africa and you have to bring that out when you’re on the pitch. There’s a lot of stuff, it’s dangerous. It’s a lovely country and I love it but it’s a tough place to grow up.

“Our captain [Siya Kolisi] grew up in a township, go there and see for yourself. A lot of people grew up in tough places and rural places and they need to bring that out.

“He’s a big inspiration. There’s a lot of guys that came from poverty and really tough circumstances to make it to this level. It’s great playing with those guys and you draw some inspiration from that.”

faf-de-klerk-and-franco-mostert-celebrate-after-the-game Faf de Klerk and Franco Mostert after beating Wales. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There has certainly been a sense of a country united behind the Springboks during this World Cup, with Kolisi the perfect figurehead.

All of that will give the Boks some strength in next weekend’s final against England but, even still, a win for Erasmus’ men would be a surprise outcome.

“They’re definitely favourites,” said de Jager of England. “If you beat the All Blacks by 12 points, you’re going to be the favourite in most games.

“The way they beat them was comprehensive so they are the favourites, but we have a foot in the door and anything can happen.

“It’s going to be very physical. The only way we know is fighting fire with fire. We base our game on physicality and they’re a very physical side at the moment.

“It’s going to be the team that dominates the gainline that wins the game.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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