Schalk Burger (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – The historical relevance of South Africa hitting the ground running at a World Cup has been brought to fresh attention by senior Springbok Schalk Burger.
As the Boks prepared for Friday’s departure to RWC 2015 in England, the veteran loose forward – he and Victor Matfield will be gracing fourth tournaments each – told SuperSport’s Boots & All programme that they seek a suitably bright start when they open their account against Japan at Brighton on September 19.
“Every World Cup where we’ve played well, we’ve laid down a marker early in the competition; this one we’re striving to do the same.”
Burger certainly has a point statistically: in both tournaments where they have previously won the Webb Ellis Cup (1995 and 2007), their campaigns were notable for rollicking first-round showings in pool play.
In iconic 1995 on home soil, they featured in the tournament opener on a sparkling autumn day at Newlands, and beat a highly-touted Australia side 27-18.
They were no less impressive upfront in 2007, first thrashing Samoa 59-7 and following it up with a terrific 36-0 whipping of England, later to be their conquered-again opponents in the final.
The Boks ought to comfortably beat minnows Japan regardless of calibre of performance, yet Burger understandably wants to bank a good omen from a truly polished display.
“I’ve never been to Brighton ... never played Japan, either,” he said.
“But I do have seven team-mates from Suntory Sungoliath playing for them, so we have some inside scope, Fourie (du Preez) and me -- though not too much.
“For me and Vic, this is a fourth World Cup, yet the challenge stays the same: go there and try to win it.
“This is a very different group to the one we had at the last World Cup, so there’s lots of energy around the team; we’ve got to find a way to play that works for us as a group.
“Lots of detail has been put in during the last few weeks, with some tough fitness stuff even though that is not my favourite as you know – I prefer playing! I am super excited.”
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing