It’s now down to mind games for the Boks

Springboks centre captain Jean De Villiers (12) cuts through the Japanese defense. Image by © Michael Lee - Taiwan Mike/KLC fotos/Corbis

Carl de Villiers, Zululand Observer

FROM the Springbok World Cup squad’s point of view, Japan’s giant-killer act on Saturday was more than upsetting the applecart.

The Brave Blossoms upended it.

But now that the emotional dust has settled to some degree, sanity must prevail as far as coach Heyneke Meyer and his brains trust are concerned, but equally so among the sniping Bok supporters who should keep the faith instead of adding more pressure on the now beleaguered team.

How South Africa responds to the crisis in the run-up to the next challenge against Samoa in Birmingham on Saturday is of crucial importance.

No doubt the Springbok camp would have formulated all their battle strategies meticulously, the game plans for each assignment worked out carefully before they boarded the flight to rugby’s kingdom.

And let’s all be honest, despite Meyer and Co talking up the Japanese threat in pre-match politeness, the general consensus was that the green and gold warriors would start their march to the quarter-finals at a canter.

What no planning could foresee was that Japan would refuse to follow the form book, instantly placing Jean de Villiers’ men in the precarious position of facing a dreaded sudden-death scenario in only their second match instead of the play-offs – a very scary place to be, especially against the no-nonsense Samoan wreckers.

The team has been selected and it is too late for Meyer to contemplate drastic strategy changes.

Although he currently finds himself in the highest sphere of anxiety, he will be the first to know that to hit the panic button at this juncture would be to invite further disaster.

Notwithstanding the strong urges to find salvation elsewhere, only cool heads and sticking to the plan will see us get back on track.

There really is no alternative for the Boks but to continue as if they had won against Japan.

The big challenge then is to get a firm grip on the mind games factor, because Japan did a good job of messing with the Bok team’s psyche.

All supporters are asking is for their men to play with passion – and, for heaven’s sake, limit the penalties. The lethargy evident on Saturday was disturbing.

One wonders – and this is pure guesswork – whether the guys have not been overtrained. Meyer said this was the fittest Springbok outfit yet.

That may be so, but speak to athletics coaches of repute and they will tell you there is a very fine line between peak conditioning and burnout.

Prediction? We’ll dispatch of the Samoans and get our groove back (but keeping the betting stakes short may be advisable at this stage).

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