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SA ’A’ vs British & Irish Lions is about getting ’better’ ahead of upcoming Test series

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Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick revealed that the outcome of the match might not be as important as the continued improvement of the team.

FILE – Cheslin Kolbe scores the Springboks’ first try in the RWC warm-up match. Photo:.Issei Kato/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG – IT is easy to forget in all the fervour surrounding tonight’s match against the British & Irish Lions, it is still marked down as an SA ’A’ encounter at Cape Town Stadium.

Indeed, it is a powerful match-day 23 that the Springbok think-tank has stitched together – one that any rugby lover can genuinely get excited about – but as revealed by Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick yesterday, the outcome of the match (8pm kick-off) might not be as important as the continued improvement of the team.

The first Test, also in Cape Town, is now 11 days away, and the focus of the Boks is bent towards that encounter and ensuring that the national side is fully prepared for that game.

“For us, it is an SA ’A’ game,” Stick explained, “and the most important thing for us is to make sure that we get better from where we left off against Georgia.

“There are certain things that are in place. I’m talking about systems now, of how we want to play the game.

“There are certain things that we really want to see, certain boxes that we really want to tick. I’m talking about how we approach the game, how we start the game.

“The most important thing for us is that we keep chasing that 80-minute performance, and we can’t afford to switch off against a top quality side such as the B&I Lions.

“If we give them opportunities, they will take it and punish you. To build towards the first Test match, we are going to make sure that we get better … and hopefully the guys will pitch up from the first whistle.”

The Boks have been unable to stress those systems in the heat of battle – all due to the spectre of Covid19 hanging heavy over them. Today’s encounter against an equally powerful Lions side – one that will arguably be the run-out combination in that first Test, barring any injuries and a change here or there – will, therefore, present one of the last opportunities for the Green and Gold to gauge their form and fitness.

The plan initially was to select the fringe players in the squad for this encounter, but with the various setbacks the team have suffered in the last fortnight, the Boks are very much chasing their tails, hoping to catch up in time and field a side that can beat the tourists.

Stick made no bones regarding this updated approach, insisting that the SA ’A’ team, although devoid of many tour members, was all about giving their Test starters an appearance to put in a performance and be prepared for what is to come.

“We are working towards the first Test match,” Stick stressed again.

“We just want to make sure that the guys that are going to play the first Test, they do have some game time behind their backs.”

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport