South Africa lock Victor Matfield insists his side are fully focused on beating England and are not lacking in motivation.
Sarah Gwynn reports for PA Sport that coach Peter De Villiers hinted on Monday that his players could not wait to get Saturday’s season-ending Test out of the way, suggesting they were suffering from mental exhaustion and their thoughts had already turned to their holidays.
Matfield admits it has been a long season, but insists he and his team-mates are intent on producing a good performance to finish the year on a high.
“I think end-of-year tours are never easy but it’s a great challenge for us against England on Saturday,” he said.
“I believe the guys will definitely be there mentally 100 per cent. It’s a great test for us at the end of the season and I’m sure we can come through it.
“We’ll be playing positive rugby and let’s see if we can go out there and score some tries.”
Assistant coach Dick Muir agreed fatigue has been affecting the players, but dismissed the notion that motivation is a problem.
“I think we’ve had to sort of condition the players, we’ve had to manage them through the fatigue, but it’s natural the guys are tired after a long season,” he said.
“But motivation is never an issue when you play against England.”
Forward Schalk Burger added: “Yeah, it’s been a long season but it’s a great opportunity on Saturday.
“The Wallabies have also had a long season but they’ve been playing great rugby so hopefully we can come out on Saturday and play some proper rugby.”
The Springboks have failed to impress in the year since their World Cup win last autumn, and laboured victories over Wales and Scotland in the past 10 days were the latest in a series of sub-par performances.
They were outshone by New Zealand and Australia in the Tri-Nations, but Matfield denied the tag of being world champions was weighing them down.
“We’ll carry the mantle for four years but we want to move on, we want to improve and focus on the future,” he said.
“That’s in the past. There’s another World Cup coming in three years and there’s a Lions Test series next year so we’d rather focus on that than on the past.”
Preparations for the showdown at Twickenham have been hit by a number of injuries, with Bismarck Du Plessis and Guthro Steenkamp already ruled out and doubts hanging over prop Brian Mujati and wing Bryan Habana.
The team announcement was delayed until Thursday and assistant coach Dick Muir said: “Injuries are always a disruption.
“We haven’t made a final assessment on some of the players so we’re just going to wait and see.
“The squad’s pretty versatile and the guys coming in will be ready for this one. I’m sure Bryan (Habana) will start.”Tweet