England players and coach Eddie Jones have spoken openly about their desire to end their 10-year winless streak against the Springboks.
It has been in stark contrast to the Boks, who have tried to ignore the one decent statistic that favours them at the end of a calamitous 2016 season.
Yesterday, Bok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot scoffed at the suggestion that the streak could be used as motivation while No 8 Warren Whiteley seemed at a loss when the record was mentioned.
Whiteley genuinely appeared to have no idea that the Boks had not lost to England since November 2006, winning 11 and drawing one of 12 tests during the last decade.
England are desperate to end that winless spell and are not afraid to mention it.
The Boks dismiss it as if it were an unwanted blotch against their name.
It might be a mental ploy to only stay in the now as sportspeople are wont to do, but it came across as arrogant.
It was as if hard-earned records are of no interest to this team – as if the Springboks of this year are somehow not connected to what has gone before.
And goodness knows they should be clinging on to every bit of positivity after winning only four of their nine tests this year.
Did the All Blacks take the same dismissive line when they approached their record 18th test win in a row last month?
No. Sports at the elite level is about chasing victories, titles and records and considering the space the Boks find themselves in after winning a meagre 44% of tests this year, their approach perhaps reveals a lot about the team’s mental state.
They lack confidence to proudly and publicly own a superb record. “I don’t think those things [the 10-year streak] come into your motivation,” Proudfoot said.
“Playing England at Twickenham is one of the greatest challenges in rugby. “You don’t disrespect them by saying there is a record there. That’s not what rugby is about.”
How mentioning the record, which is a fact and not an opinion, is disrespectful to England in any way is unclear.
Proudfoot’s response only served to highlight how growing paranoia in the Bok camp appears to be taking hold.
Training sessions are closed for all but a few minutes and almost every question is treated as if a verbal hand grenade has been launched at the top table.
Whiteley, normally a mild-mannered person, also seemed irritated when asked for the source of his optimism after he stated he was motivated by “just being here and putting on the Springbok jersey”.
“I’ve been in a similar situation to this before,” Whiteley said in reference to his Lions career that saw the union relegated from Super Rugby before fighting their way back and into this year’s final.