Spring­bok Koch claims to know ri­vals’ se­cret game plans

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup - in Tokyo In­side knowledge: Faf de Klerk is one of sev­eral Sara­cens play­ers in the South Africa squad By Tom Cary

Vin­cent Koch says South Africa’s in­ti­mate knowledge of Sara­cens’ sys­tems and game plans, ac­crued over many years of play­ing in the Pre­mier­ship, will help them to “man­age” Eng­land in Satur­day’s World Cup fi­nal.

The Pre­mier­ship cham­pi­ons’ fin­ger­prints are all over Ed­die Jones’s Eng­land – the club has nine play­ers in the 31-man squad, with six likely to start on Satur­day.

“When we look at them we can see a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties [be­tween how they play],” Koch said. “Our fo­cus is mainly on us. We know what they are go­ing to bring. If it is the Sar­ries way or the Eng­land way, we need to match that. [But yes] there a few things we saw that Sara­cens do that we can man­age. We are ready for that; dif­fer­ent jer­seys, but sim­i­lar game plans.”

Koch is one of a num­ber of Spring­boks who play in Eng­land. Vet­eran hooker Schalk Brits is an even more ef­fec­tive dou­ble agent, hav­ing just re­turned from a near 10-year stint with Sara­cens, mak­ing more than 200 ap­pear­ances.

Faf de Klerk (Sale), Fran­cois Louw (Bath), Franco Mostert (Glouces­ter) and Cobus Reinach (Northamp­ton) also all ply their trade in the Pre­mier­ship. Koch, one of South Africa’s so-called “Bomb Squad” – the name given to their for­ward re­place­ments – said he felt he had im­proved as a player since mov­ing to Sara­cens in 2016.

“Mov­ing was a big de­ci­sion,” the 29-year-old said. “They have worked on me to try to make me the per­fect player. They’ve made me work harder, men­tally pre­pared me for big games. Mov­ing abroad made me an all-round bet­ter player.”

Asked about the prospect of com­ing up against Sara­cens team­mate Mako Vu­nipola, Koch smiled. “I’ve scrummed quite a lot against him in train­ing. Same with Joe Mar­ler. I know ex­actly what they do. It’s go­ing to be exciting to go up against them again. This is dif­fer­ent. It’s not a train­ing field. It’s a big test.”

De Klerk also this week cred­ited his time in the Pre­mier­ship with im­prov­ing him as a player, ad­ding that he hoped to use the lessons he has learnt against Eng­land.

“Your game un­der­stand­ing changes over there [Eng­land],” he said. “As a nine it is about read­ing the con­di­tions and how the game flows. Should we at­tack more? Should we kick more? Put them un­der pres­sure in cer­tain ar­eas? Then play­ing against the guys – we know there will be a lot of Sar­ries guys.”

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