TOKYO, 31 Oct - Os du Randt, a double Rugby World Cup winner for South Africa, has told the Springboks they can win the trophy for a third time provided the forwards "man up" and the whole team keep their discipline.
Despite stating that England are favourites for Saturday’s final at International Stadium Yokohama - a rematch of the 2007 decider in which du Randt won his second Rugby World Cup - the legendary front-row feels that the Springboks can upset the odds.
The key for him, naturally, is for South Africa’s forwards to take the game to Eddie Jones’s powerful pack, while not giving away unnecessary penalties.
Du Randt, who earned 80 test caps between 1994 and 2007 and was recently inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, said from his home in Bloemfontein, “You don’t want to do stupid things because you are worked up and want to prove a point, and then by accident, stamp a man in the face, or use your elbow or things like that.
"You don’t want to bring the refs into the mix, because that would definitely be a deciding factor – a yellow card or red card.
“Our forwards must man-up. It’s about getting your set-pieces right, put pressure on their scrums. You must dominate, and that is how you get into those guys’ heads and hopefully, eventually they throw in the towel.
“With this pack that we have now, it would be an absolute disgrace if they overwhelm or dominate us. Our guys must go in with the right mindset and play with the right spirit – like the guys always say, ‘Ice in the head and fire in the belly’.”
Du Randt is the only player to have won Rugby World Cup titles 12 years apart. Frans Steyn, who started at inside centre in 2007 as a 20-year-old and kicked a superb long-range penalty, is on the bench for Saturday’s final and could match du Randt's achievement.
“Definitely the last time (in 2007) wasn’t so serious for me,” Steyn said. “I was a bit young and I always thought there would be another opportunity, where now it is a little bit more serious because I know there won’t be another opportunity. We’ve got to make it count.”
Du Randt, below, looked back to the Springboks' 15-6 win in that 2007 final in Paris - the last time either South Africa or England made the final - and said the Boks “absolutely felt in control” throughout the match despite the famous controversy over England's disallowed try.
Du Randt, the starting loose-head prop, said that even while they were waiting for television match official Stuart Dickinson to make his call on whether Mark Cueto had scored, the Springboks were not panicking.
That stemmed from the fact that Jake White’s South Africa had beaten Brian Ashton’s England 36-0 in the pool stages.
Scrum-half Fourie du Preez produced a masterclass that day, and it gave the Boks the belief that they had England's measure in the title decider.
“I think it (the 36-0 win) definitely gave us that edge to know that we can beat them if we play properly, and everybody is on their game as much as they can be," said du Randt, 47.
“Also, the fact that there were pretty strong rumours that went around that it wasn’t a totally happy camp with the English, which also gave you some confidence.”
It was not all plain sailing for South Africa in the final, though, as Jonny Wilkinson equalised with a penalty after Percy Montgomery had put the Boks 3-0 ahead.
Bok full-back Montgomery slotted two further three-pointers to establish a 9-3 half-time advantage. Then the big moment came when England wing Cueto dived for the try-line, pictured.
That was after centre Mathew Tait produced a thrilling line-break before being brought down three metres short of the line by second-row Victor Matfield in a remarkable cover tackle.
The ball was quickly shifted to Cueto, who dived under Danie Rossouw’s tackle to score. But Dickinson ruled that Rossouw had done enough as Cueto’s foot had scraped the touchline, and did not award the try.
“You don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think, deep down in our hearts, we knew that we were strong enough to beat them," said du Randt, who was part of the triumphant 1995 Springbok squad.
"We never really panicked, even with those incidents, and it showed our character: what we had come from and how we backed each other.
“Danna’s tackle (Danie Rossouw), Victor’s (Matfield) tackle, so did each guy do something small – some were just more critical than others, or a bit more in the foreground, a bit more visible.
"We all looked at each other with confidence, and deep in our hearts we knew we had each others’ backs. That’s an important aspect that you must have to win, especially in a World Cup final, because there is enormous pressure.
“Between the two World Cups that I won, it was about having that calmness and that each guy knew what he needed to do.
"Everyone knew... what was expected of him, and within you is that passion and drive that you don’t want to disappoint your team-mate firstly, and then secondly, that you don’t want to disappoint your people back home.”
Bryan Habana was the Player of the Tournament in 2007 after scoring eight tries to equal the World Cup record set by Jonah Lomu. At a Laureus Sport event in Tokyo he said the Springboks’ second title was all the more remarkable given their poor record in 2006 when, among a number of defeats, they had lost 49-0 to Australia in Brisbane.
The impact of the 2007 victory hit home once they got back from France, he said, as the team had been "very isolated from South Africa" during the tournament.
Only when they went home did the players see "people coming together and being united under a banner of sport", said Habana, pictured above in action against Samoa in 2007, who spoke of "thousands upon thousands of people waiting for us at the airport".
“We then went on a trophy tour around the country. To see stadiums being filled up, to see black kids in rural townships run barefoot behind the bus, to see the power that sport has – like Nelson Mandela says – to change the world was something for us as a 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning group. We will be able to take it with for the rest of our lives.
“Winning bonded us as a team, but united a nation again."