By Nick Said
KOBE (Reuters) – If Canada’s players are feeling nervous ahead of Tuesday’s Rugby World Cup game against twice champions South Africa they are not showing it, with coach Kingsley Jones saying the squad is in party mood ahead of the Pool B clash in Kobe.
The Springboks are expected to cruise to victory and seal a quarter-final berth but Jones says his players will revel in the experience of back-to-back games against global heavyweights after a 63-0 loss to New Zealand last time out.
“I am so impressed by the attitude and approach of the players,” the former Wales international told reporters in Kobe on Monday.
“That’s all we can ask for from the guys, is the excitement of being involved in these games and fighting to the end of them. So far we have seen evidence of that.
“I judge the atmosphere by the volume at breakfast and in the changeroom, and I walked into a party this morning. The beat-box was going and the guys were smiling, so for me that is a massive confidence boost.”
Prior to this World Cup, Canada had not met the All Blacks in eight years and had not played South Africa since 2000, which reveals their lack of opportunities to test themselves against the game’s elite.
“What this group of players do is learn and get better every week. There is a huge amount of growth potential,” said Jones.
“We took lessons from the All Blacks, there are lots of things they do well and we try to take that into our game.”
Jones knows exactly what kind of threat the Springboks will pose in Kobe. The last of his 10 caps for Wales came when he captained the side in Pretoria in 1998, a match which South Africa won 96-13, still the team’s biggest ever defeat.
However, it is one thing to know what is coming and another to be able to counter it.
“We know South African rugby, whether it is Super Rugby or the national team. We know what we are going to get tomorrow,” added Jones.
“They squeeze you up front and then it comes down to the gain-line. They can take the ball quickly through the phases and they also have some very good players in the backline.
“But that is the challenge for us and we will meet that challenge.”
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Peter Rutherford)