The Springboks regard their final Rugby World Cup warm-up game against their arch enemy, the All Blacks, not as a friendly warm-up match, but rather as a fully-fledged Test match.
Fiery Bok lock Eben Etzebeth said South Africa will give everything to win this match before turning their attention to the global showpiece in France.
Th Boks will play their last match at Twickenham on Friday before launching their RWC title defence against Scotland on Sunday 10 September, in Marseille.
Etzebeth and wing Makazole Mapimpi believes this match demanded the same respect as every other Test between two of the game’s biggest rivals.
“We are playing in the Springbok jersey at one of the top stadiums in the world against a team with which we share one of the greatest rivalries, so this is not a warm-up match for us, it is a Test match,” said Etzebeth.
“We’ll give everything this week and we’ll worry about the World Cup after the game. If things go well for us, it could also give us confidence going into the World Cup, so this is a massive game for us.”
Mapimpi, who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup with Etzebeth in 2019 in Japan, spoke equally highly of the encounter:
“It’s always a big challenge against the All Blacks, and we are excited to have this opportunity to play against them. There’s a chance we could face them in the quarter-final, so this is an important match for us.”
Etzebeth emphasised the importance of a strong start against New Zealand in this match after going down 35-20 against them at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland last month in the Rugby Championship.
“One of the main lessons we learned was to be switched on from the start against them,” said Etzebeth.
“In the first 20 minutes of the last match they were the better team on the field, so it’s important that we have a strong start.”
The Springbok centurion, who will earn his 113th cap for South Africa on Friday, said the team wanted to be better overall, as opposed to singling out specific aspects they wanted to improve on.
“We pride ourselves on our set pieces, and our attack and defence will always be vital, so it’s going to take a good squad effort from the team on Friday,” said Etzebeth. “Every time we take the field, we strive to play the perfect game.”
With intense competition for places in the Bok back three with Mapimpi competing against the likes of the equally talented Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe for a place in the team, he said: “It’s a team sport and I’m proud of the youngsters coming through. It’s important to build the squad going forward, and these players bring a lot of energy. For me, what is the good for the team is the most important, not for me as an individual.”
Both players relished the challenge of facing the All Blacks in London, with Etzebeth saying: “It’s going to be a huge game in front of a neutral crowd of over 80 000 people, so hopefully the fans will be split 50/50.”
The match kicks off 20h30 SA time and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.