Before the Rugby World Cup, South Africa would have viewed today’s game against Samoa as an opportunity to stamp their authority on Pool B and virtually seal their place in the quarter-finals.
Now, the Springboks head to Villa Park — the home of English soccer club Aston Villa — simply looking to stay alive in the tournament.
Their shocking opening-game loss to Japan is still reverberating through the competition, nowhere more so than in the South Africa camp.
The jibes, the cruel cartoon sketches, the abuse from back home — they are all still flying around. It was a defeat that a proud rugby-playing nation could take years to get over.
However, the team has had a week to recover and there will be no letup from traditionally powerful Samoa in what is set to be a brutal clash in the Midlands.
“We’re expecting massive warfare, but in saying that, we can’t come to a war with our hands and a pocket knife. We’ve got to bring all we’ve got and face up,” Samoa coach Stephen Betham said on Thursday.
Of course, South Africa are no strangers to physicality — they pride themselves on it — and they will not be lacking motivation this weekend. They might have underestimated Japan in Brighton, but coach Heyneke Meyer has restored his frontline players for the team’s second game and is expecting a reaction.
There has to be.
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