South Africa say they won’t fall into the trap of getting involved with the “mind games” of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland before the eagerly-awaited opening Test clash.
Head coach Gatland, looking forward to Saturday’s heavyweight battle up front, claimed the Lions had already dented the Springboks’ ego at the set piece despite South Africa A having toppled the tourists 17-13 last week.
The Springboks will host the Lions in Cape Town amid an increasingly tense off-field backdrop with the tourists frustrated by South African Marius Jonker acting as Television Match Official (TMO).
Gatland believes the Lions have already ruffled some feathers in the home forward pack, but Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick delivered a withering assessment of that stance on Friday.
“We were happy as a Springbok team; if you look at the most important stat in the game, which is the final score, we won the game,” said Stick.
“So I’m not too sure what it is that they dented.
“I’m not going to fall into that trick of playing the mind games, I’m not a mind games person. The game is going to be played between four lines.
“If Gatland is talking about the egos, he doesn’t really know much about us as South Africans.
“So I’m not going too deep on that. Let’s wait and see after the game tomorrow.”
South Africa-born Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe has already been braced for any Springboks’ sledging by the Lions coaching staff.
But South Africa captain Siya Kolisi insisted the Springboks will not be indulging in any such antics.
Asked for his response to suggestions van der Merwe could expect some verbals, Kolisi said: “Well you clearly haven’t had anything from our side.
“We’ve never been that kind of team and will never be that kind of team.
“We’re going about our business, focusing on the game and we’d never focus on one player.”
The Boks’ back line coach Stick insisted that, in different circumstances, the home side would even have been keen to mix with their fellow countryman this week.
Stick added: “You know very well that we are good people as South Africans; if it wasn’t for the pandemic, we’d have surely invited him for a braai.”
South Africa’s rugby director Rassie Erasmus will continue his role as water boy in the weekend’s Test opener.
Lions boss Gatland’s anger has been piqued by Erasmus’ pitch-side duties, hinting that the Boks boss has at times wandered onto the field in breaks of play without any water.
Stick confirmed that Erasmus will continue to water boy this weekend however, in a move that will doubtless frustrate the tourists.
“To keep it short and sweet, Rassie will be running the water tomorrow,” said Stick.