Kolisi going into RWC opener against Scotland with playoff mindset

Kolisi going into RWC opener against Scotland with playoff mindset

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi relished the challenge of getting their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign off to a tough start against the fifth-ranked Scotland in Marseille on Sunday, and likened it to starting the tournament with a playoff game.

The Springboks face two of the top five teams in the world in the pool stages in Ireland (currently the top side in the world) and Scotland, with their other pool matches being against Romania and Tonga. With the Boks being drawn in the so-called 'pool of death', Kolisi said they had to hit their straps fast in the tournament.

While some may see it as pressure, the 2019 RWC-winning captain looked forward to the challenge.

"A lot has been said about our pool, but at the end of the day we have to beat the best teams if we want to win the World Cup," said Kolisi.

"To start the competition with such a game (against Scotland) will certainly prepare us for what is to come because it's almost like a play-off game."

Kolisi spoke highly of Scotland and expected a thrilling opening game.

"One could see how hard they pushed against France, so we have been doing a lot of preparation on them, just as we do on every other team," said Kolisi.

"They are a quality team, who are confident about how they play, and they are an attack orientated team. This is an important game for us."

With the Boks entering the competition as the defending champions, there will be big expectations on the team, especially from the fans back home in South Africa, but Kolisi embraced the hope the fans have in the team.

"It's never pressure for us, it is a privilege to represent the country and to do what we love," said Kolisi.

"When we won the World Cup in Japan it was special, but when we landed in Johannesburg the scenes at the airport were something I've never experienced before. That's the kind of energy that reminds us who we are playing for."

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber echoed Kolisi's sentiments that the tournament will be extremely tight and said it could take something special to defend their title.

"This World Cup will be competitive, and as always there will be surprises," said Nienaber. "I believe it will take something incredible to get through our pool, and the same applies in the quarter-final as well as the later stages of the competition."

With only two days left before the Boks kick off their campaign, Nienaber said there was something special about playing in a World Cup.

"The one thing that always stands out for me at a World Cup is the vibe," he added.

"When one looks at the energy and the way the fans are streaming into the cities where we play, it's special. World Cups are always incredible."

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