Home Rugby World Cup 2023 The Springboks need to be switched on to have any hope of...

The Springboks need to be switched on to have any hope of defending their title against the All Blacks

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The Springboks will have to be much more clinical, while picking up their intensity tenfold against New Zealand on Saturday, writes Leighton Koopman.

The Springboks will have to maintain their intensity and physically when they take on the All Blacks. Photo: Mohamed Badra/EPA

The same intensity and physicality the Springboks started their last clash against the All Blacks with is what will be needed on Saturday to win the World Cup final in Paris.

If the Boks can’t replicate that, it’s difficult to see how they will be able to stop the New Zealanders’ march to a fourth Webb Ellis Cup at the Stade de France (9pm kickoff).

But unlike at Twickenham in August, this time around – with a wet and rainy day predicted – it will be way more difficult to kick off with that type of intensity, and that is why accuracy will be equally important from the starting fifteen.

Yes, the Boks showed that they can man their line with some incredible defence when they are under immense pressure in the opening minutes of a clash.

They held firm at the weekend when the English threw the kitchen sink at them with aerial bombs and strong ball carries from forwards for most of the first half to stop them from scoring tries.

Yes, England won plenty of high kicks, but if you keep a team try-less and reduce them to kicking penalties while you stay in touch with your own three-pointers, that counts as a win.

In the quarter-final, after a massive French onslaught after the kickoff, the Boks conceded an opening try after some sluggish play but staved off a second five-pointer with desperate defence.

But against New Zealand, arguably the game’s biggest exploiters when teams start slow against them, the Boks won’t be able to be lethargic for even half a minute. They will get punished by the Kiwis, and unlike France and England, they know how to keep the pressure pumping when you’re on the back foot.

The match in Auckland in the Rugby Championship stands out as a warning for the defending champions, and that drubbing should still be fresh in the minds of Bok players and supporters alike. The Kiwis romped to an early 20-3 lead at the break and never surrendered it, even the “Bomb Squad” could not diffuse the losing situation after a massive fight.

And, should the All Blacks get a whiff of a slow start from their opponents, there is no doubt they will keep attacking this vulnerability. And they will score points off it – unlike the two European teams who failed to do so in the knockout round.

The All Blacks are probably the only other team in world rugby with the Boks – that needs only that one area of their opposition’s game plan to be weak to capitalise on it.

That is why a start to the World Cup final with intensity will be non-negotiable.

It is predicted to be wet. And in a wet game, you can’t always promise a fast start, especially with the unpredictability of the bounce of the ball. But if the Boks start with the desired intensity and prevent the New Zealanders from getting an attacking foothold in the game, half the battle could already be won.

The Bok brains trust should not look further than that Twickenham drubbing they gave the former World Cup winners ahead of the tournament as inspiration.

That was the perfect blueprint where the players started with great intensity and accuracy, and the Boks completely blew the All Blacks off the field.

The question is whether the South Africans can get themselves up for that intense and physical start after two mentally draining knockout games.

@LeightonK

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