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Nienaber anticipating Scottish onslaught in their World Cup opener, Kolisi keeps calm

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienaber in conversation.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienaber in conversation.
Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

On the eve of their much-awaited Rugby World Cup opening match against Scotland at Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Sunday, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was reminded of the perils the starting blocks hold at the sport's biggest tournament. 

The Boks made a false start against New Zealand in Japan in their first match in 2019, but Nienaber's attention was drawn to the team's 2011 nervy tournament opener against Wales at the Cake Tin in Wellington.

The match played on September 11 that year must have hinted of potential peril ahead as the Boks held on for a less than convincing 17-16 victory.

It was to serve as portent for the quarterfinals at the same stadium when they came up against the resourceful Wallabies and the partially sighted Bryce Lawrence. 

“I was part of that, actually and we're going to play a quality team in Scotland,” Nienaber said reaching for parallels. 

Of course his job back then in Peter de Villiers' back room staff was done in relative obscurity and he had a close-up view of how the game unfolded. 

“Frans Steyn scored early, within the first three minutes, and at the time, I was the physio then and I thought it was going to be an easy one. 

“It didn't turn out like that and a young Dan Biggar with a young Welsh side and I think Francois Hougaard scored late with a little bit of magic between him and Fourie du Preez. 

“It was a tough game and probably that was the thing, there are no easy games in the World Cup, even if you score first. 

“A World Cup is a World Cup. It's a different tournament than any other tournament you play, so we expect nothing other than that.” 

Nienaber anticipates a Scottish onslaught of similar proportions, though the Boks hold a 14 wins and one defeat record in their last 15 clashes against the team in blue. 

“We expect nothing other than a big game and it'll take a big grind from both sides to break each other down. I expect that game to be a tough one.” 

Captain Siya Kolisi is also expecting a tough clash but he exuded his usual calm as the big day draws closer.

His prematch ritual will ensure more calm after a week of frenetic preparation. 

“I listen to a lot of different music but for games, it's often worship music because I like to calm down, it gives me peace and it settles me down because coach Jacques and Rassie pump us up during the week.” 

“We keep rising and rising, so I need something to pull me down and keep me level-headed before a game. 

“Also, it gives me a lot of strength.” 

Speaking of strength, World Rugby meanwhile has announced teams will have access to sustenance of a physical nature in the opening weekend of the RWC. 

“World Rugby can confirm that the decision has been taken to implement water breaks at all Rugby World Cup 2023 matches this weekend,” the game's governing body said in a statement. 

“Water breaks will operate midway through both halves at a natural break in play. The process will be managed by the referee.

“All teams have been informed.

“The process has operated at previous Rugby World Cups and across rugby more broadly when temperatures are hot or humid and is catered for in the tournament’s regulations.” 

France has experienced a heatwave and the Springboks have had to prepare in sweltering conditions at their Toulon base. 

Even Paris, which is normally a few degrees cooler, has experienced unseasonably hot and humid conditions. 

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