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Rugby | Springboks

Jaco kriel and © Gallo Images

Boks won’t fear 'different monster'

Springbok flank Jaco Kriel knows that the Pumas team that was well beaten in the opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship test will be smarting and he has warned of a backlash but at the same time he gives the impression he and his teammates don’t fear the challenge faced in Salta.

The Boks fly out on Wednesday ahead of a return clash with the Pumas, who were beaten 37-15 at the weekend, that will be played at a venue that the Boks struggled to come to terms with last year. Although team manager Ian Schwartz reminded a Port Elizabeth press conference that the field dimensions do satisfy minimum requirements set out by World Rugby, the Boks did struggle to come to terms with the narrow field last year, when they suffered their first ever away defeat to Argentina.

On top of that, the fans at the venues away from Buenos Aires always seem more passionate towards their team and more hostile to visiting teams, and the Pumas, after being embarrassed in their areas of strength at forward in Port Elizabeth a few days ago, will be determined to bounce back with a big performance.

However, as well as being better prepared physically this year, and better organised in terms of game plan, the Boks have been working hard on the mental aspects of the game too. Team psychologist Pieter Kruger was in Port Elizabeth at the start of the week, and Kriel spoke highly of his input.

“The mental side is definitely a huge part of what makes a team successful and enables teams to confront the challenges, not only this week but every week that you play at this level,” said Kriel.

“There is a huge mental side to being a professional sportsman. We have planned well and trained well but the rest is mental. As a professional sportsman every player must ensure he is mentally tough. We have a brilliant doctor (Kruger) helping us with that.”

Kriel, who turned 28 on Monday, referred to mental toughness when asked about the smaller field dimensions in Salta referred to by head coach Allister Coetzee after the 37-15 win at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

“I believe that as players we have to be mentally tough and we can’t let the field or the venue, or any other factors that make it less than perfect for us, deflect us from our focus and our task,” said Kriel.

That also applies to the challenge the Boks face from the fired up Pumas.

“We didn’t play at our best at the weekend and have to now forget about the win and be prepared for a new challenge. Saturday will be a new day and we know we have a different monster to face,” he said.

“We know Argentina are a proud rugby nation and they won’t have been happy with what happened at the weekend. Especially going back home to play in front of their home crowd, they will be determined to prove a point. We just have to stick to what we do and not move away from that. There may be lots of circumstances that are not going as per normal, but you just have to get that out of your head and stick to the processes. We don’t focus too much on the opposition, but on ourselves and we know what we can do.”


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