Rekindling the same desire is the key

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After the travails of last weekend, it was felt that for a couple of days at least we should take time out from the rigours of training and meetings in the comfortable surroundings of Sun City.

Minds and legs were rested. It was only the heart which continued to take a hammering as we tackled a variety of hair-raising water slides and the odd brave souls turned their hand to parascending. Golf was played on the Gary Player Championship course, home of the million-dollar challenge, and chips were laid down in the famous Sun City gambling halls.

All good fun, but there is, of course, more serious work to do, and on Wednesday we returned to Johannesburg for the next stage of our mission. I was soon learning the hardest lesson of the World Cup: the need to play your heart out for one weekend and then, with scant time to dwell on all the joy of a great win, the fact that you must leave that all behind as you focus on the next mountain to climb.

And the mountains do not get any smaller. The sizeable hillock this weekend comes in the form of the New Zealand All Blacks. In the not too distant past, the All Blacks conjured up all sorts of dark, foreboding images of rugby demi-gods in black jerseys, ruthless and all-conquering, masters of all they surveyed.

Indeed, I will always remember when in 1989 I lined up as a Barbarian to watch them perform the haka to find that, in fact, they were just ordinary human beings - and relatively small to boot.

In the past five years or so, their image of invincibility has been laid low by the ascendancy of the Australian machine and other one-off victories such as the second Test by the Lions in 1993, by England later that same year, and a 2-0 series win by the French last year.

There have been ominous signs of an All Black revival during this World Cup, albeit without having to face any of the big guns. In fact, they have not been sorely tested since they lost their Bledisloe Cup encounter against the Aussies last year.

The severe test we encountered at the hands of the Aussies last week should have erased any existing question marks over our ability to cope with the best around. However, I do not think that anyone ever doubted we could pull off a once-in-a-lifetime performance like that. The challenge is for us to replicate that - if not go one better -against the Kiwis so soon after.

Therefore, the major task this week has been to attempt to rekindle the mental approach of last week as we attempt to go one step further.

The week has been tiresome from the continuous press harangueing on the subject of Jonah Lomu. I would love to share my feelings on the gentleman in question following tomorrow's game. Until then, I will say what I do about all my opponents. As an international, you have the privilege of being able to play with the best against the best. Lomu is purportedly one of the best, and I look forward to the challenge.

Indeed, the biggest problem I will face is who to swap shirts with after the game, as I believe he does not like to take part in this time-honoured tradition. I guess maybe because he would have a problem fitting into Tim Rodber's shirt, let alone mine!

Meanwhile, there will certainly be a great deal of interest in today's game between South Africa and France. An all-Northern hemisphere final in a Southern hemisphere location would be a great prospect.


at Newlands, Cape Town

M Catt Bath 15 G Osborne North Harbour

T Underwood Leicester 14 J Wilson Otago

W Carling Harlequins, capt 13 F Bunce North Harbour

J Guscott Bath 12 W Little North Harbour

R Underwood Leicester 11 J Lomu Counties

R Andrew Wasps 10 A Mehrtens Canterbury

D Morris Orrell 9 G Bachop Canterbury

J Leonard Harlequins 1 C Dowd Auckland

B Moore Harlequins 2 S Fitzpatrick Auckland, capt

V Ubogu Bath 3 O Brown Auckland

M Johnson Leicester 4 I Jones North Harbour

M Bayfield Northampton 5 R Brooke Auckland

T Rodber Northampton 6 M Brewer Canterbury

D Richards Leicester 8 Z Brooke Auckland

B Clarke Bath 7 J Kronfeld Otago

Referee: S Hilditch (Ireland). Kick-off: Tomorrow 2.0 (ITV)