x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Forward thinking for Springboks under pressure against Wales

The scrum will be the key against the Welsh, says the forwards coach Gary Gold.

South Africa feel they have a lot of responsibility to perform for their fans back home.
South Africa feel they have a lot of responsibility to perform for their fans back home.

WELLINGTON // New Zealand may be feeling the heat of being the tournament hosts and favourites, but Gary Gold, the South African forwards coach, believes his team are under as much pressure.

The Rugby World Cup champions begin their title defence against Wales in Pool D today, and Gold said that the Springboks have high expectations of their own.

"The expectation of every Kiwi we bump into is that they are going to win this," Gold said yesterday. "Our pressure is more of an internal pressure and a responsibility to our country that has been so enthusiastic in its support.

"Our pressures are more the ones we put on ourselves. By and large, not many people have given us much of a chance with our recent form and how things went in the recent Tri Nations, so I think the pressure I compare it to is that of the host nation."

South Africa can ease that pressure with a victory over the Welsh, and the Springboks are expected to play a game based around their deeply experienced forward pack, which Gold has helped to mould.

Gold's specialities are line-out strategy and defensive structure, but he sees the scrum as having a crucial role in the match.

South Africa have largely acknowledged that by naming three frontrowers among their five forward reserves.

"I think [the scrum is] going to be a key area for us against the Welsh," Gold said. "They are very good at scrumming, and obviously we're wary about that.

"They have some seasoned campaigners in their pack, especially in the second row, so I think it's an important platform for us to launch off, and obviously they feel the same way.

"I think you're going to see a lot more scrums in the night games because handling is going to be a little bit tricky. We saw a lot more unforced errors [Friday when New Zealand played Tonga] and quite a lot of scrums, so we're anticipating quite a heavy day from the scrum point of view."

Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, said his side have to take their chances if they are to have a chance of causing an upset.

"The last three or four times we played South Africa, we've been in a position to win the game, been up, and some of the losses have been a little bit of our own downfall, lack of accuracy in key moments."

He added: "We're not going into this game hoping they have a bad day and that everything goes well for us. We're going into it with some confidence."