Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber highlighted the importance of his team’s current training camp on the French island Corsica and stressed that his players had to be ready to play knockout rugby from the outset of the Rugby World Cup in France.
The global showpiece kicks off in eight days time when France host the All Blacks at the Stade de France in Paris. Meanwhile, South Africa’s campaign begins against Scotland in Marseille on September 10 and Nienaber and his team are hard at work ahead of that encounter.
Hard at training
South Africa arrived in Corsica on Saturday following their 35-7 victory against New Zealand at Twickenham on Friday, and the players got down to business on Monday with their training programme.
“It’s not a holiday, it’s a proper training camp,” said Nienaber.
“There are a lot of things we need to work on because we are in a knock-out pool from game one, so there’s a lot we need to get right if we want to be competitive and defend the World Cup title.
“From a rugby perspective we can work hard here and can prepare, and from a team perspective it’s nice for us to meet and mix with the people of Corsica.”
Nienaber is preparing his troops for some difficult challenges during the pool stage of their campaign.
“In our pool, Scotland is No 5 in the world, South Africa No 2 and Ireland No 1, and one of us is not going to make it out of the pool,” he said.
“But it is what it is, so we have to be on form from the outset.
“And if we do get out of the pool, we’ll either face France or New Zealand in the quarter-final, so it’s going to be really tough.”
Dismissed favourites tag
The 50-year-old, who is joining Leinster’s coaching staff after the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup campaign, dismissed suggestions that his team were the favourites to win the title.
“I think France are the favourites, but obviously we are the World Champions, and we can’t deny that,” said Nienaber.
“That said, I believe this is going to be one of the most closely contested World Cups in history with a couple of teams that can win it on the day.”
The Springboks will finish their training camp in Corsica on Friday and make their way via a 10-and-a-half hour ferry journey to their Rugby World Cup training base in Toulon on Saturday.