Springbok lock Bakkies Botha says the fact that Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Australia in Wellington could be the last Test for a number of players was not being allowed to cloud the team’s preparations.
Botha moves to Toulon in France following the tournament as one of a half dozen players who may not appear in the green and gold again – although only the retiring Victor Matfield will definitely be out of contention.
John Smit (England), Gurthrö Steenkamp (France), Fourie du Preez and Danie Rossouw (both Japan) are also moving overseas and are aware that they may be 80 minutes away from the end of their Springbok careers.
"A lot of the guys know it may be their last game and the team that loses this weekend is on their way home, so we know what we must produce," said Botha.
"A handful of us have been around the block for nine, 10 years and the big secret for us is to focus on the weekend. When you pull that green and gold jersey on you must give it all and we are not holding back one inch.
"We know from this weekend that the intensity is going to get higher and the pressure as well.”
Botha said he was now back to full fitness and was looking forward to the opportunity to get back onto the field.
"You don't know how frustrating it is to be on the sidelines,” he said. “I missed all the physical battles – against Wales and Samoa. When I was sitting in the stand I just wanted to take off my No.1 jacket (Springbok blazer) and get stuck into it.
"I am happy to be back. As long as I can give something back to the Springbok team I will be happy if I can make a difference.
"The medical team put a lot of effort into it. Now I am feeling 100 per cent and must hit the ground running. It is nice weather for training for old and big guys like ourselves."
Both dismissed the old cliché that the Australian forwards would be a pushover.
"Since Robbie Deans took over as coach, the Australia pack of the last two or three years have picked up their physicality a lot, as we saw in the Tri-Nations. They are a much more physical side than three or four years ago.
"You cannot play Test rugby if you have not got a pack that dominates physically and this weekend's battle will be physical as well. We must get on the pitch, do our best and have a good day at the office.
"The deciding factor in every Test match is the clash of the packs of forwards, where we make a few deals and everything in the rucks, sorting each other out.
“We know that a Test match against Australia is a physical battle and that's the first battle we must win to put our backline on the front foot."
Ireland’s victory over Australia was founded on forward and breakdown dominance but Botha said the Boks were more concerned about delivering their own gameplan – rather than copying someone else’s.
"We as a team said to each other this morning that we know what worked for us in the year,” he said. “At this time of the tournament we must not change too many things and just do stuff that worked for us and know that numbers 1 to 22 are aware of what they must do.
"We’re not targeting individual players. The guys on the field must work together in one system in the defensive line. That is the most important thing for us as a team.
"Ireland and Australia was a tough match. Ireland won by a small margin. You can look at all Test matches and the pack of forwards that dominate and the one that wins the breakdown is the one that edges the opponent."