Springboks will have a good idea of what to expect when they face England in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final since a number of Springbok players earn their living in the English Premiership.
As such, they rub shoulders with their opponents on a regular basis, unlike New Zealand’s semi-final defeat by England when it looked as if the All Blacks did not know what had hit them.
For South Africa, there are links everywhere, none more so than at Saracens, who provide nine of Eddie Jones’ England World Cup squad.
Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch plays in the same team as Mako and Billy Vunipola, hookers Jamie George, Jack Singleton, second-rows Maro Itoje and George Kruis, new scrumhalf Ben Spencer and captain Owen Farrell. Fullback Elliot Daly has signed for the club, but has yet to make his debut.
Most of those are in the pack and that is where Koch can play a vital role in relaying inside information on his club comrades to his Bok brethren.
It is not just about individual duels, either. England’s game plan is similar to that of Saracens.
“There are quite a lot of Saracens in their team, and as we looked at them, we can see a lot of similarities. There are a few things I saw that Saracens do, and what we can manage. I think we are ready for that. They are in different jerseys, but similar game plans,” said Koch.
“But our focus is mainly on us. We know what they are going to bring, and if it’s the Sarries way or the England way, we need to match that.”
As well as Koch’s insider knowledge, coach Rassie Erasmus can pick the brains of second-row Franco Mostert (Gloucester), back-row Francois Louw (Bath), and scrumhalves Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) and Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints).
In addition, fullback Willie le Roux has just completed a three-season stint at Wasps, where he played Daly, while back-up hooker Schalk Brits was at Saracens for nine years before joining the Bulls in Pretoria this year.
Even utility back Damian Willemse spent a few weeks on loan at Saracens recently and was at training with the North London club when he was called up to the Springboks’ World Cup squad as an injury replacement for Jesse Kriel.
The Boks should be well-versed in what England are capable of, and Koch is enjoying the prospect of facing Saracens team-mate Mako Vunipola on Saturday.
“With Mako, playing with him, I’ve scrummed quite a lot against him in training. This is a bit different, as it’s not on a training field, but in quite a big test. The same with Joe Marler – I’ve scrummed against him in the (English) Premiership. I know exactly what they do, or I’ve felt what they have done in the past. We are excited.” – African News Agency (ANA)