Jacques Nienaber: Boks can't wait for Rugby World Cup to start

Jacques Nienaber: Boks can't wait for Rugby World Cup to start

Jacques Nienaber admits to feeling some butterflies in his stomach as the Springboks' four-year journey to the Rugby World Cup in France nears its end.

The Boks' head coach reflected on some of the challenges he and his team faced in preparing for the defence of their World Cup trophy, which included an entire year lost to the Covid pandemic and a behind-closed-doors Lions series they barely had any time to prepare for.

But Nienaber says the Boks were determined to strengthen their squad and build on their depth in the lead-up to 2023 and he's confident they've been successful in that aim.

The Boks' results have certainly been mixed at times in the last four years and at times their goals seemed farther away than others, but the coaches' plans seem to be coming together very nicely just in time to mount another serious challenge at the Rugby World Cup.

"When we started this journey in 2018, we knew there would be limited time to prepare for the 2019 World Cup," said Nienaber.

"But we had four years to prepare for this tournament, although we lost one due to the COVID pandemic. In that time our focus was largely on building as much squad depth as possible. So, I think that's the main difference between now and 2019."

He added: "I have butterflies from excitement. We've been working toward this for four years, so we are very excited to get the competition started."

With their training block done in Corsica, the Bok coach was pleased with their preparations in the Mediterranean island and said: "We had a really good week, with a solid conditioning block. 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."

Not only are the Springboks the defending World Cup champions, but recent results have some feeling they may even be the legitimate favourites this time around.

"We've been the defending world champions for the last four years, and we can't change that, so we have to accept it going into this World Cup," said Nienaber.

"But we know there are several teams that can win this World Cup and if we are one percent off on any given day, it could be a long day on the park."

Looking ahead to their opening match against Scotland in a little over a week, Nienaber said the Boks were impressed with what they've seen from the Scots in recent outings.

"They are a fit team and because of that, they can get stuck in and play for over 80 minutes," said Nienaber. "That's certainly one of their strengths.

"We know Pieter de Villiers (Scotland's scrum coach) well, and they also have strong set pieces, which allows them to play with the ball and with a lot of rhythm."

The Boks will arrive in Toulon on Sunday morning and start with their on-field preparations on Monday.

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