Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Papali’i on a mission to disarm Springboks “bomb squad”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

New Zealand v Italy – Rugby World Cup France 2023. Photo: World Rugby
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

As we count down to the anticipated big dance between the All Blacks and Springboks on Sunday morning, both camps understand that the task ahead is not as simple as it may seem.

The Springboks owe a lot to their bench who put in a massive effort in their close fought semi-final win over England last weekend. Their forwards off the bench, known as the “bomb squad”, were super exceptional in creating that major momentum shift in the late minutes of the semi final.

The Springboks coming away with a 16-15 win over England to book a date with the All Blacks in the final.

And hoping to disarm and dismantle the bomb squad is All Blacks loose forward Dalton Papali’i, who gave his thoughts on the task ahead at a press conference earlier this week.

“I’ll tell you a quick story, I’ve got a little group happening in the team room at our hotel and we’re watching Band of Brothers and the 101st Airborne and their Easy Company,” Papali’i said.

“So, I made a little joke saying, you know they’ve got the ‘Bomb Squad’, so we could have the ‘Easy Company’. We want to go and finish the job and be in the trenches.” 

Photo: World Rugby

But war time references aside, Papali’i is fully aware of what the Springboks bench provides. 

“Talking about the Bomb Squad, man they’ve proven themselves. They can come on and change a game like that. So, we sort of need to identify whoever is on the bench and that needs to really be screwed on up-top and give it hell.”

For many of the All Blacks senior players this weekend’s final will also be their last ever appearance in a black jersey. 

A lot of the newer members in the squad including Papalii will be hoping to set their brothers off on a high note by clinching a fourth World Cup title for New Zealand. Speaking to the team on Monday were some of the departing players who are also part of the leadership group in the team.

“There were a few tears and I think that’s awesome to see, players showing vulnerability, just opening up about how much this tour and this sort of game means,” Papali’i said.

“Some of them were saying this is probably one of the most important games of All Blacks history. We went through a bit of a hard path to get here; media, friends, family even criticising us and all that, and we stuck together. 

“There’s a few leaders in the team, it’s going to be their last game in the jersey, so it’s a big game for us and even the other players that are staying, knowing that we want to send those boys out on a high.”

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