Springbok lock Johann Muller on Sunday said that their three world cup pool matches may be the best possible preparation for the team ahead of the knockout stages.
South Africa is in Group A alongside Wales, Samoa and Fiji with the defending champions favoured to advance past the group phase of the tournament.
“It’s always good if you play a couple of tough pool games — it does prepare you well for the quarterfinals,” said Muller, who was called up during the recent Tri-Nations from Irish club Ulster.
The world cup winner will be providing second row cover for Victor Matfield.
Muller had only recently recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of action for the shortened triangular showdown and he admitted that the physical demands in the Springbok group could have an influence on their performance at a later stage in the competition.
“We have probably got the toughest group in this world cup and sometimes when you win it you say it’s the best thing that could have happened and if you lose then you blame it on a tough pool game.
“We have three or four unbelievably tough games in this pool and hopefully by the end of the pool stages we will be ready for the knockout phases and in seven weeks time we will say it was a great thing.”
Should the Boks produce a solid all-round performance, the likes of Fiji and Samoa would be less confident of their chances to get one over the world champions.
Failure to dominate against the only northern hemisphere team in the group would be seen as a sign of weakness in a tournament.
“I think this is going to be an unbelievable world cup and there are five or six sides who can win it,” he said.
The Boks’ first match is against Wales in Wellington next Sunday.
Muller did insist that the Boks were ready for whatever Warren Gatland’s men may through at them.
“We know what is coming,” he said.
“The Welsh have had a really good side and had a great build-up to the World Cup with a couple of great wins.
“They only thing we worry about is to be well prepared for Sunday. We know what we want to do and I think that’s the only thing that matters to us.”
After deciding to ply his trade in the in the north, the big lock was not concerned about the difficulty of adjusting to the southern hemisphere horse.
Muller and fellow former Sharks Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn have become accustomed to the difference in pace on the respective sides of the equator, so missing out on a run in the Tri-Nations could count against him during the world cup.
While the second rower agreed that he might be a bit rusty, he felt that the knowledge he gained in Europe has made him a better player.
“Every tournament has a different style and a different environment and if we can all add to the greater goal that will be great,” Muller said.
“I have learned a hell of a lot over the last season abroad and I have come back, I wouldn’t say a better player but a more experienced player.
“I have learned so much over the last 12 months and if I can pass on that knowledge I will be very happy.” — Sapa