TOKYO, Japan, Sep 27 – South Africa insisted they hadn’t set themselves a points target as they get ready to dismantle lowly Namibia at the Rugby World Cup — even with a dramatically altered team.
Scorelines of 87-0 last time they met in 2011, and Australia’s record 142-0 shellacking of Namibia in 2003 mean the Springboks can approach the game with confidence bordering on nonchalance.
Coach Rassie Erasmus has even picked hooker Schalk Brits at No 8 in a team that features no fewer than 13 changes from last week’s 23-13 Pool B defeat by New Zealand.
Even Namibia seem to have given up Saturday’s match as a lost cause after switching 10 players from the team that troubled Italy before gallantly going down 47-22 in their opening game.
Defence coach Jacques Nienaber said South Africa had “no point limit in our heads” against their neighbours, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament.
“We are trying to develop our game across the board — attack, kicking, our mental approach, our work ethic during the week,” said Nienaber.
“So, there is no point limit in our heads. It is not a case of saying if we concede just three points in the game, we will be happy with that, or if we concede 30, we will be disappointed.
“We want to work on the things we lacked against New Zealand and improve in those areas. We want to build our game, improve the skill set of the individual player.”
Namibia have only had the misfortune of playing South Africa twice before: once in Cape Town in 2007, when the Springboks won 105-13, and their 87-0 win at the 2011 World Cup.
Namibia have conceded 50 or more points 11 times in 19 World Cup games, including losing 142-0 against Australia in Adelaide, when the Wallabies ran in 22 tries in the tournament’s widest margin of victory.
– ‘There will be injuries’ –
Scrum-half Eugene Jantjies, who faced South Africa in both 2007 and 2011, said Namibia would take a physical approach against the two-time world champions.
“The last game we played was not probably the best one,” said Jantjies. “It’s going to be physical because we know each other well, South Africans and Namibians.
“I know there are going to be a few players injured, hopefully not us. We’ll go into this game to play our most complete game, be physical and try to disrupt them, and to play our game technically and tactically.”
Erasmus said he had picked Brits, captain for the day, at No 8 in order to give Bongi Mbonambi some game-time at hooker. Brits, 38, will become South Africa’s second-oldest World Cup player after Victor Matfield.
“We have to prepare really hard and go through a proper week of analysis. But if we play to our full potential, we should win those games, and I am saying that with the utmost respect to those teams, because the gap between Tier One and Tier Two nations has definitely shrunk,” Erasmus said.
“You don’t get 100 points, 80 points and 70 points anymore — it’s been shown in the first week (of the tournament).
“It’s our neighbours, so we know we will be in for physical things going on in this game, so we are respecting that.”
Although Namibia are yet to win a World Cup game, they can take heart from hosts Japan who were whipping boys for many years but are now viewed as serious contenders to reach the quarter-finals.