Defending champions feeling the pressure, says Smit

Springbok skipper John Smit said on Thursday the defending champions were under more pressure ahead of this year’s World Cup, compared to the 2007 edition which was held in France.

“The one big difference for me is that there is far greater expectation going into this World Cup, which will make it more difficult,” Smit said before the team’s public farewell.

“On our way to France, getting on the airplane we said to ourselves ‘lets arrive there having won and cause our own pressure’, and there was a hope that we could do well. Now there is a need.

“This country needs us to do well and we must use that responsibility to the best of our ability and not let it cage us, but let it empower us and motivate us for the next couple of weeks.”

Both Smit and Springbok coach Peter de Villiers described how relieved they were that the long wait was finally over as they prepared to leave for the global showpiece.

The Bok captain also admitted that he barely managed to get any sleep the previous night, although pre-tournament anxiety had very little to do with it.

He attributed his lack of sleep to his children who forced him out of bed in the early hours of the morning.
Smit, despite spending his final evening in South Africa sleeping on a mattress, was positive about the benefits the Boks would receive from their last training camp in Johannesburg.

‘Hard training sessions ahead’
“It has been a massive week-and-a-half of a lot of things,” he said.

“There were some really hard training sessions and I think the best part for each and every one of the players will be when they sink into that seat to get to New Zealand tonight.

“They’ll know that no one can chase us around the field or make us hit another t-bag or scrum machine, and that will last for at least 36 hours, hopefully.”

De Villiers was also in good spirit, although he was glad that the constant media pressure would be paused once the team boarded their flight.

“I’m very excited, if you stand next to the field and watch how these guys put everything together this week,” De Villiers said.

“It was so intense, and when you come on the last day and there are no major injuries, you feel really excited to go.

“We did everything possible to get our minds in the right space and we look forward to boarding that plane.”—Sapa


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