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No change for Springboks: Been in playoffs mode for 3 weeks

Playoffs arrived? Springboks have been in playoff mode for 3-plus weeks at Rugby World Cup

No change for Springboks: Been in playoffs mode for 3 weeks

LONDON (AP) -- To the Springboks, the quarterfinal against Wales won't feel like their first knockout match of this Rugby World Cup.

After a sensational loss to Japan on the opening weekend, the South Africans have been operating in playoff mode for more than three weeks.

As well as being embarrassed, the Springboks couldn't afford to lose another match in Pool B or they would have failed to advance from the pool stage for the first time.

They duly won out, beating Samoa 46-6, Scotland 34-16, and the United States 64-0 to finish on top of the group.

Star winger Bryan Habana said it's been easy for the Springboks to get their minds focused on the quarterfinal against Wales on Saturday at Twickenham, because their mindset hasn't changed.

"After that Japan loss ... every match has been do or die," winger Bryan Habana said on Tuesday.

"Nothing's changed," assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher added. "We are still in the situation where we have to win. It's another opportunity to show what we can do, and we're excited about that. What we want to take into the game, though, is momentum and confidence."

To that end, Loubscher said, there will be minimal changes to the team, barring injuries.

The lineup is likely to look similar to the one which started against Scotland two matches ago. That had Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira as props, Handre Pollard at flyhalf, Jesse Kriel at outside center in place of the injured and retired Jean de Villiers, and JP Pietesen on the right wing opposite Bryan Habana. The only question was whether lock Victor Matfield will be fit and selected after missing the last two matches with a left hamstring strain. Matfield has said he's available and wants to lead the team.

"It's important we have continuity in our selection, and what we want to take into the game is the confidence from the last three weeks," Loubscher said.

Habana, whose five tries so far have given him 15 all-time in Rugby World Cups, level with Jonah Lomu's record mark, was asked to compare this team with the 2007 champions, and said this year's lineup had more younger players.

"We had a smoother run in 2007, whereas this has been up and down," he said. "I believe this team can do something special.

"We needed to install some pride after the Japan loss. The past isn't going to get you anywhere in this competition, so we need to be fully prepared if we want to come out on top on Saturday."

Updated : 2021-09-21 17:28 GMT+08:00