Erasmus knows all to well about the All Blacks-Springboks rivalry

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That has helped shape his preparation for Saturday's pool opener for the two sides in Yokohama.

 

"I played against the All Blacks in the World Cup for the bronze medal in 1999.

 

"That wasn't a great experience – we did win the game, but it wasn't the nicest feeling playing in the third-fourth place playoff.

 

"I've coached against them prior to the World Cup in 2011, which was also a preparation match in Port Elizabeth, then the last three Test matches, but this is the first time in the World Cup that I am part of the coaching team, as the head coach," he said.

 

Since taking on the role at the start of the 2018 international season he has overseen a revival in South Africa's game and three Tests that have produced a win apiece and a draw with only two points between the sides.

 

"[There are] a lot of emotions which vary from excitement to nerves to pride.

 

This is a big game for us, not just in terms of advancing to playoff mode, but just the history between us and New Zealand.

"There is a lot at stake in terms of pride and respect between the countries and as a head coach it makes me really proud to be with these boys in this match and knowing that both teams have equal chances in this match," he said.

 

While there was an intense rivalry dating back to the first rugby contact in 1919, there was also mutual respect.

 

"We will always have massive respect for New Zealand…not because they are No.1 in the world, but because there is such a history between us.

 

"I've been playing against them since 1996, and there has always been this rivalry on the field, but just off the field, there is really a great respect – between coaches, between players.

 

"It's friendly off the field, and the way we do things in the changing rooms afterwards."

 

For South Africa, the 57-0 loss in Albany proved a turning point. In the return game a few weeks later in Cape Town the All Blacks battled to a 25-24 win.

 

"Getting smashed 57-0 [in 2017] was really low for us and we had to hit rock bottom to start building up and getting respect back in world rugby," Erasmus said.

 

"We felt that the only way to do that was to beat New Zealand in New Zealand and we had a lot of luck and did that [in 2018].

 

"It will be very sad if we loose on Saturday but it's not the end and then the Italy game becomes really important to come out of the pool.

 

"If you lose, you always lose a bit of confidence and then you have to rebuild again. Although the world rankings says they are No.2 I think they are No.1 in the world," he said.

 

South Africa team to face the All Blacks:

15: Willie Le Roux 14: Cheslin Kolbe 13: Lukhnayo Am 12: Damian de Allende 11: Makazole Mapimpi 10: Handre Pollard 9: Faf de Klerk 8: Duane Vermeulen 7: Pieter-Steph du Toit 6: Siya Kolisi (C) 5: Franco Mostert 4: Eben Etzebeth 3: Frans Malherbe 2: Malcolm Marx 1: Steven Kitshoff

Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtwarira, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel.

 

 

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