JP Pietersen (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - As a seasoned veteran heading to his third Rugby World Cup tournament with a winner’s medal already to his name, JP Pietersen will be hoping to prove his detractors wrong.
“It is my third World Cup and I can’t wait for the tournament to start, I’ve been training hard over the last five weeks,” Pietersen said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“The excitement to start a game is there, and we grew tighter as a group over the last few weeks and we have a nice mix of youth and experience.”
Pietersen had to endure some flak as his form flailed since his move to Japan in 2013, while injury also did not help his cause.
The 29-year-old last played in the Boks’ narrow defeat to Australia in Brisbane in July before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the remainder of the Rugby Championship.
Pietersen has since been in intense conditioning training over the last five weeks, and he was confident of making a valuable contribution to the Boks’ campaign during the World Cup.
“I’ve been training very hard, the conditioning coach loves me, every moment having a piece of me, so I’ve been running and doing skills training,” Pietersen said.
Heading into his third Rugby World Cup, Pietersen said he would fulfil a different role than in the past while he also had learnt valuable lessons from his two previous experiences.
“In 2007 I was still young where I was excited and just keen to play for South Africa, come 2011 I was more experienced and we knew what was expected of us,” he said.
“It was probably not my best year in 2011 and going into this World Cup I know what I expect of myself.
“I know myself better and I’m getting myself in peak condition heading into the World Cup.”
Pietersen said the Springbok team under the tutelage of coach Heyneke Meyer was still focussed on the goal of winning the Webb Ellis Cup.
The team will be looking to bury the memories of the 2011 showpiece in New Zealand where they bowed out at the quarter-final stage against Australia.
“I won’t say there are any demons for us going into the World Cup, we’ve had this goal for four years since coach Heyneke Meyer took over in 2012, and our goal has always been to win the World Cup,” Pietersen said.
“As South Africans we want to win the World Cup and the nation looks up to us, there is a lot of responsibility playing for South Africa and we look to win every game.”
While most South Africans would like to forget about the Springboks’ performance in this year’s Rugby Championship, Pietersen said they would rather learn from their mistakes.
The Boks lost all three of their Championship matches, two narrow defeats to Australia and New Zealand, before a miserable defeat to Argentina in Durban.
“We didn’t forget what happened in the Championship, we can only learn from that and get better as a team,” Pietersen said.
“It’s about rectifying what we did wrong and working on what we can improve and I think we’ve made massive improvements.”