Despite the fact that England were coming off a masterful performance against New Zealand and South Africa had seemingly spluttered their way into the World Cup final, Springboks captain Siya Kolisi has revealed his team were supremely confident about how their match was going to unfold at 2019’s biggest rugby event.
While England were favourites heading into the game, South Africa slowly gained ascendency throughout the first half and came to life in the final quarter of the match when they scored two excellent tries.
While coaches have often overthought the week heading into a massive match, Kolisi has revealed that Rassie Erasmus kept the changes to a minimum.
Speaking to hosts Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger on the Use It or Lose It Show, Kolisi said that very little changed following South Africa’s narrow 19-16 win over the Welsh.
“In the final week, for some reason, everything was just very chilled,” Kolisi said. “Nothing changed, we didn’t do anything special, everything was just the same.
“The nicest thing, to be honest, was having the families there. I would have a hard day at training or reviewing then get to my room. You get there and your kids don’t care how tough your day was and you go for a walk and all that kind of thing, [it was] quite chilled.”
Of course, the Springboks prepared hard for the match, focussing primarily on analysis of the English side and tactics, as opposed to on-field fitness and gym work.
“The amount of detail that we had to do on laptops, because [the coaches] wanted us off our feet, so we just watched [England match footage],” Kolisi said. “There were the key players, who kicks, what side do they kick from and all that kind of stuff. So you can watch and kind of see this picture over and over and it plays in your mind the whole week.
“On match day, we came into the stadium early and instead of speaking to us – remember at the time in South Africa there was gender-based violence and all those negative things happening – he reminded us that this is not pressure. Pressure in South Africa is people not having jobs and there’s violence and everything that’s happening … [He said] ‘Just play for the people here and back at home’. I think, after that, there was not much else said.
Kolisi also revealed that even before the match kicked off, he knew his team were in a better frame of mind than their opposition, simply based on Owen Farrell’s demeanour at the coin toss.
“You know when you have that feeling, ‘there’s no way they’re going to beat us today’?” Kolisi said. “Even with the coin toss, when I saw Owen Farrell, he didn’t know which side he was at, which side was warming up, what team is he, A or B. Already I could see [he was flustered]. And they came late to the stadium.
“We were so confident from the first scrum, the guys were really hungry. I know people say Kyle got injured earlier but the way we’d been scrumming everybody else, I don’t think it would have made a difference.”
England’s late arrival to the stadium has been widely criticised while the likes of former coach Clive Woodward has lambasted the side for their approach to the week of the final.
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At the end of the match, South Africa triumphed 32-12 in the third World Cup title win since their first involvement in the competition back in 1995.
That final also marked Kolisi’s 50th match for the Springboks but the talismanic leader wasn’t able to run out on his own, as is common when a player hits a significant milestone – not that he was too fussed about it.
“They wanted me to run out first… but they said the moment was too big for me not to walk out with Owen Farrell – but I wouldn’t have done it differently.”
Burger then reminded Kolisi of his 50th cap for the Stormers, when Kolisi ran out to rapturous applause in Wellington against the Hurricanes.
“I was like, ‘Siya, you deserve it, go out for your 50th,'” Burger said. “And he was jogging out – and you sort of jog out together in the corner. The next moment, the crowd’s going ballistic and I don’t know what Siya’s thinking. He’s jogging and turns around and I’m jogging out and next to me is Ma’a Nonu, playing his 150th game.”
“I was like, ‘Oh – this wasn’t for me?’” Kolisi joked.
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