Rugby World Cup: South Africa braced for tricky Scotland as they begin title defence

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RUGBY Rugby World Cup: South Africa braced for tricky Scotland as they begin title defence

Joel Omotto 10:42 - 10.09.2023

The Springboks have added flair to their game and feel it will lead them to another title but must start by overcoming formidable Scotland in their World Cup opener.

South Africa gets its title defence started at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.

Back in 2019 in Japan, the South Africans used a swarming defence, a solid kicking game, and a dominant set-piece to win rugby’s biggest prize for a record-tying third time.

Now they are aiming to add a more expansive approach through new flyhalf Manie Libbok as they begin with a match against Scotland.

It’s one of three games on Day 3, with Fiji looking to back up its status as a possible surprise package against Wales. Chile will make its Rugby World Cup debut against Japan.

If the Boks are to turn on the style in the back division to match their forward strength, Libbok will be orchestrating things from flyhalf. He is the only specialist No.10 in the squad and plays more on intuition than any Springboks playmaker in recent memory.

Scotland’s Finn Russell is a flyhalf in the same mold and one of the most exciting players in the northern hemisphere, so the battle of the No.10s could be some watch in a Pool B match between teams in the top five in the rankings. South Africa are ranked second while Scotland are fifth.

“It’s the biggest opportunity you’ll get, a World Cup game playing the world champions,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said. “We believe we’ve been building to our best performance.

“Really, this is where it will count for our players to deliver what they have been delivering in training and what they’ve been delivering in other games we’ve played this year.”

It is the second high-level north against south matchup so far, following on from host France’s win over New Zealand on the opening night.

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, who led the Springboks to victory four years ago in Japan, will take the defending champions out for the start of this campaign and might cherish the occasion more than most.

Doubts were raised about the flanker’s availability for the World Cup when he had surgery on a serious knee injury in late April. Kolisi returned to competitive action only last month in a test against Wales and he also played in South Africa’s 35-7 beating of New Zealand in its final warmup.

“I will never forget, when we won in Japan, it was special, it felt great,” Kolisi said. “But when we landed in Johannesburg, I’m actually getting goosebumps. I’ve never seen anything like that. The airport was, I think, under emergency because everybody left their working stations, they just wanted to see us.”

“That is the kind of energy that drives us, the kind of energy that reminds us who we’re doing it for and why we’re doing it.”