If the Springboks win the match with a bonus point, they will be in a good position to advance to the quarter-final stages regardless of the other results in the remaining Pool B matches, and Stick stressed that was their main objective in their crucial encounter against Tonga at Stade de Marseille.
“The mood in the camp is one of a Test week,” said Stick.
“This could be our last eve of match media conference if we don’t win, so we’ve been working hard at training and the eight-day turnaround (from the match against Ireland) gave us time to delve deeply into Tonga.
“We may not have gotten the result against Ireland, but the manner in which we played allowed the game to live up to its billing as one of the toughest in the pool stages. So, we are up and ready for this match.”
Stick said they are expecting a bold onslaught from the Pacific Islanders: “They have big forwards and one of the best scrums in the competition. They also have star backs with a lot of X-factor players in their team.
“The team we selected is also strong and physical so that we can put them under pressure. We know that if we are not on form we could struggle, so we want to pitch up with real intensity and capitalise on our point-scoring chances, which is something we didn’t do against Ireland.”
When asked about a possible playoff place, Stick was frank about the way the team viewed that scenario.
“We need to win this game, so we cannot even talk about the playoff stages now,” said Stick. “We don’t want to rely on other teams to get us through, so our goal firstly, will be to win and if things go well, we’ll chase the bonus point and points.”
Veteran Springbok No 8, Duane Vermeulen, who will pack down at flanker this weekend in a loose trio with skipper Siya Kolisi and No 8 Jasper Wiese, said he believed the team still had a lot to showcase in the global spectacle.
“I’d like to say no (we haven’t played some of our best rugby until now),” said Vermeulen.
“If you look at our match against Ireland, it was one of the best pool games. But I certainly think we have a lot left in the tank. There are still a few things we have to work on, and we have to get that right this weekend and going forward because there are no second chances. So, hopefully we can put in a good performance this weekend.”
Springbok centre Canan Moodie, who first established himself as a wing in the team before moving to outside centre in a hard-running midfield pairing with Andre Esterhuizen, was delighted with his new role in the team, and also looked forward the match.
“I played outside centre at school, and I loved the position,” said Moodie.
“When the opportunity came along, I grabbed it with hands, and I was surprised when I saw my name on the team sheet in that position against the All Blacks. There’s a big defensive element at No 13, and the more I’ve played there, the better I adapted again, so hopefully it’s a position I can continue in going forward.”
Both Vermeulen and Moodie praised Kolisi for his contribution to the Springbok team before his remarkable achievement of leading South Africa for the 50th time on Sunday, and said he was a key player both and off the field.
“I’ve known him for a long time and when this chance came along, he grabbed it with both hands,” said Vermeulen. “It’s a fantastic achievement and hopefully there’ll be a lot more to come from him.”
Moodie was equally complimentary of his skipper: “When I first joined the Springbok camp, he was one of the first players who asked if I needed anything. This is a special moment for him and his family. He’s a special guy who brings something special to the group.”
The match against Tonga kicks off at 21h00 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.