Munster’s victory in Cork last week was mainly due to a very strong start by the Irish province, but SA ‘A’ assistant coach Joey Mongalo and team captain Thomas du Toit reckon there were enough positives to take from the way they improved after the break, when they run out at Ashton Gate Stadium on Thursday evening (kick-off 21h30 SA time).
“If you look at the last 40-odd minutes last week, the score was 7-7 and I think that gave us a good foundation on which we can build,” said Mongalo.
“It has also been good to see how the more experienced players, such as Cornal Hendricks in the backline and Thomas up front, have been working with younger players, and I think that will also stand us in good stead on Thursday.”
Du Toit said: “Having some extra time on the training field has also been good, as well as spending time off the field and getting to know each other better this last week. We’ll definitely take a bit more confidence into the game, and it’s now up to us to rectify the mistakes from last week and use the positives from that match to our advantage.”
The South Africans realise their defence will be tested by a Bristol side that likes to run from all positions on the field, but Mongalo said they will be ready for it: “I’ve not seen a team that likes to keep the ball in hand as much as they like to.
“Munster last week was more of a physical game of attrition, and this week Bristol will probably play wider and quicker – Pat Lam’s teams usually provide quite an attacking threat, so we are expecting them to run back from restarts and take quick taps.
“They will be up for the game, but so will we, as we want to use the opportunity to deliver a performance we can be proud of, as well as our supporters back home. Yes, some of the players will probably join the Springboks next week, but this game is about delivering a team performance and build on what we’ve done the last 10 days,” added Mongalo.
Du Toit echoed what Mongalo said and added that while the players have an opportunity to put up their hands for higher honours, there are more important things for the team.
“It’s about finding that balance between expressing yourself within our structures, but also to play as well together as a team as possible,” said Du Toit.
“We haven’t had a lot of time together, but we had a good start last week and this week we started gelling better on the training field and connecting off it. Having said that, no game has ever been won on individual performance alone and we know we will have to be switched on.
“Bristol have a good scrum and maul, and like to play off it, but as a pack we will not shy away from the typical South African way of playing and we would like to take them on. We also have variety on attack and will choose when to use it, and when to be more direct and physical, but that could also change once the game starts.”