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Wednesday Oct 18, 2023

John Smit claims everything is 'on the line' as the Springboks face England challenge

Springbok legends John Smit and Victor Matfield have been discussing the English challenge that South Africa will face this coming weekend in Paris.

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On their Boks Office podcast, the two former players discussed in detail the upcoming semi-finals, and the incredible performance that saw the Springboks progress from their quarter-final match with hosts France.

Victor Matfield: “I couldn’t believe the crowd. It was unbelievable. To be a referee with a crowd like this, not giving everything to the home crowd must be so difficult because everything is happening. The crowd went wild.”

John Smit: “There are different types of performances. You can have a flawless performance but the best games that provide the best results are where you are up, then they are up. The pressure is on. I think those are the test matches that get people riled up that a flawless game doesn’t bring out in people.”

Matfield: “That is where you also see a quality team. We [South Africa] were outplayed. I think in the first 60 minutes we were outplayed. The French arrived here, they were ready for this game. They had this crowd behind them, they were so good in that first 20 minutes. It’s the first time I have seen South Africa’s defence scramble like that. Not just on the edges, I mean they physically dominated. They got momentum, made metres, the kicking game of Dupont. It put us under pressure but this teams knows how to win games.”

PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 15: Siya Kolisi of South Africa celebrates victory with members of the crowd at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on October 15, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

It was from here that conversation quickly turned to the match which is being billed as a 2019 rematch.

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Smit: “It’s probably as a captain the easiest week to motivate your players in. I suppose there are many reasons for that but motivation there will be no shortage of that. I think our issue 16 years ago was complacency and I think that might be something to watch.

“If you think about 2019 and England sort of playing their final against New Zealand. If you can’t reset emotionally in the week and come down and realise we are back to square one again you can get a surprise. If we took these two teams [South Africa and England] and they played each other 10 times in the last two years there’s probably a large amount of those game would be won by South Africa. But everything is on the line. There is also a desperation from this England team that got absolutely ridiculed, they have resurrected their campaign. How desperate can our guys get again to give themselves an opportunity to go back-to-back? There’s lots to play for.”

Matfield: “England can beat us. I think they are the one team that plays a very conservative type of game. They play in the right areas, they play territory, they don’t take any chances. They take the three points, getting a little bit ahead, waiting for the opposition to make mistakes. That is a difficult game to play against, especially for us who like going off turnovers.”

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