South Africa captain Siya Kolisi warned his side that defeat to New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup opener will turn every other pool match into a final.
The Proteas were famously stunned in their first game of the 2015 tournament, going down 34-32 to this year’s hosts Japan in one of the greatest shocks of all time.
Rassie Erasmus’ men face the reigning world champions on Saturday in Yokohama and Kolisi knows how important it is for the Springboks to make a strong start, having been humiliated in England four years ago.
“We are a very different team now – different coaching staff. We don’t want to start like that and we have an opposition who also wants to start well,” said Kolisi, whose side will also face Italy, Namibia and Canada in Pool B.
“There is a huge history behind us and we have learned from the past, so we have shown as much respect as we can to New Zealand, and have worked hard on our stuff.
“It makes it really tough if you lose your first game, because then basically every game is like a final.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 20, 2019
Loose forward Kolisi cited the breakdown as a key battleground against the All Blacks, who triumphed when the two met in Pretoria last year, with flankers Sam Cane and Ardie Savea the men to watch.
“I know how good they are, I have played against them for a while. Me and Sam Cane played in the U20s, so I have seen him for quite a while. We chat and learn a few things from each other, but you can’t wait for the ref to help you at the breakdown,” he said.
“Ardie has the most steals in Super Rugby, so we are going to have to sort it out ourselves and get in there quickly.
“That is where they were strong in the game in Pretoria last year – that’s where they won the game.”
The last meeting between the two sides was the 16-16 Rugby Championship draw in July.
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