All work and no play for Springboks in Corsica
Mediterranean outcrop may have its pull but world champions are there to grind
Unlike the late, great actor Peter O’Toole, the Springboks are no accidental tourists to Corsica.
The Boks are on the Mediterranean island just off the coast of France preparing for the Rugby World Cup that starts next week.
O’Toole, who by all accounts lived a large, free-spirited life, had hazy, yet memorable recollections of Corsica. “I did quite enjoy the days when one went for a beer at one’s local in Paris, and woke up in Corsica,” he once famously said.
An alluring island it may be but Bok coach Jacques Nienaber made it clear, unlike O'Toole, his team has a clear focus. “It’s not a holiday, it’s a proper training camp,” Nienaber said.
“There are a lot of things we need to work on because we are in a knockout 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.”
The Boks went on a similar charm offensive in Japan four years ago and the locals adopted the eventual champions as their second team.
While hitting the training field in Corsica the Boks will pay particular attention to what it will take to down Scotland in their opening match in the Stade Velodrome on September 10.
Nienaber said the pool the Boks are in is laden with peril. “In our pool, Scotland are No 5 in the world, SA No 2 and Ireland No 1, and one of us is not going to make it out of the pool. 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 quarterfinal, so it’s going to be really tough.”
The Springboks did, however, serve notice in their most recent match that they are a force to be reckoned with. They inflicted their heaviest defeat ever on old foes New Zealand by winning 35-7 in London last Friday.
That result got the rugby world to sit up and take notice. The mantle of tournament favourites, though, does not sit easy on Nienaber's shoulders. He did his best to deflect.
“I think France are the favourites, but obviously we are the world champions, and we can’t deny that. 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 tournament kicks off next Friday when hosts France clash with the All Blacks at Stade de France in Paris. Argentina play England in Marseille a day later, while the Boks and Scotland meet in the same stadium the next day.
The Springboks will wrap up their training camp in Corsica on Friday and make their way via a 10½ hour ferry journey to their training base in Toulon on Saturday.
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