The Springboks have been on the Mediterranean island of Corsica since beating New Zealand to acclimatise to the warm conditions in southern France where they kick off their World Cup title defence.
It is with butterflies in their tummies that the Springboks packed their bags for France yesterday before heading to their base on the French mainland today.
Coach Jacques Nienaber told reporters from the Springboks’ training camp in Corsica that the Rugby World Cup was becoming “very real” and that the nerves had set in now that the first game is about a week away (Sunday, September 10, against Scotland).
“I have butterflies from excitement,” Nienaber said. “We’ve been working toward this for four years, and suddenly it is upon us. It is getting very real and there is nervous excitement in the camp. We can’t wait to get cracking now and have the tournament under way.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 2, 2023
The Springboks have been on the Mediterranean island of Corsica since beating All Blacks last Friday in London. Nienaber said the idea was to acclimatise to the warm conditions in southern France. It also meant the Boks did not have to trek home to South Africa and back again.
“We had a really good week, with a solid conditioning block,” he said. “The conditions here are similar to Durban. It’s hot and humid, but it was great for the players to get used to the conditions and we got some good work done,” said Nienaber. “It was no holiday camp. We did some serious fitness work.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 1, 2023
Nienaber said the Boks’ first opponents, the tricky Scots, have been under the microscope and attention has been paid to the strong South African representation in their squad, including one of the game’s deadliest strike runners in wing Duhan van der Merwe.
The Scots have an exceptional flyhalf in Finn Russell and he loves getting the ball wide to Van der Merwe, who scored one of rugby’s greatest tries against England in the last Six Nations.
But the Saffa influence is also very much in the pack where the forwards coach is the vastly experienced Pieter de Villiers, who has had spells with most of the Tier One countries, including the Boks. De Villiers also played prop for France in the early ’90s and he has at his disposal rugged South African props in WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman.
“We know Pieter de Villiers very well. They also have strong set pieces and that allows them to play with the ball and with a lot of rhythm,” Nienaber said. “They are a fit team and because of that, they can get stuck in and play for over 80 minutes. They never go away. That’s certainly one of their strengths.”
The Boks will arrive in Toulon tomorrow morning and begin their on-field preparations for Scotland on Monday. After playing Scotland in Marseilles, they have pool B opponents in Romania (September 17), Ireland (September 23) and Tonga (October 1).