South Africa's Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has increased the pressure on Ireland by claiming that the World Cup is Ireland's "bogey competition."
The Boks and Ireland are set to face each other in a highly anticipated clash in Paris on Saturday. This game is undoubtedly the highlight of the tournament, with many storylines at play.
The winner of the pool will either face France or New Zealand in the next round. Additionally, South Africa has opted for a 7/1 split option on the bench.
Another narrative surrounding the game is the teams' records in the tournament since 1987. The Boks have won the World Cup three times in seven attempts, while Ireland has never advanced beyond the quarter-finals after nine attempts.
However, the two sides have never met at the Rugby World Cup.
Ireland and Munster fans will remember Rassie Erasmus from his time in the country as a rugby maverick. When asked about Ireland's poor record at the World Cup and whether it influenced the world champions' preparations during the week, the former Munster coach made light of Ireland's previous tournament performances.
"I was thinking about that when I read a few things on social media," the 50-year-old told RTÉ Sport.
"A few of my friends said that Ireland is our bogey team, but the World Cup is Ireland’s bogey competition.
"But then if you think about history, when we lost our pool match against New Zealand (in 2019), then we won the World Cup. It had never been done before.
"The New Zealanders lost their first pool game ever this year, and I think they're strong contenders this year.
"A team with different coaches, different captains, different game plans, different supporters, and the transformation of the team in terms of how they play and how they want to attack.
"I really think history, while it might be nice to make it a sensational thing, doesn't affect the belief from within the Irish team and from the South African team. At the end of the day, it's what those 33 players and management believe.
"I guess it spices it up, but it doesn’t make a difference, the history, for the teams."
Erasmus has also emphasized the importance of how "vital" Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is to the Irish team. When asked what makes him so special, he highlighted his "aura and his presence" as reasons to why he is such a special player.
"He's a hell of a vital person, in my opinion," added the South African.
"When I was at Munster, I only beat him once, I think it was the December game at Thomond.
"Whenever Johnny's in the team, a lot of things happen, and not just as a player.
"It's his aura and his presence. For a man at 38 to still score tries like he scored this weekend and the previous time we played them, he grubbered through and out-sprinted one of our guys, so as long as he's physically out there, which he is, there's no doubt about him.
"And then it's just the aura about him; it's exceptional, not just for his own team but very intimidating for the opposition."
- Date: Saturday, September 23, 2023
- Venue: Stade de France, Paris
- Kick-off: 8:00 pm (9:00 pm local)
- Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
- TV Coverage: Live on ITV (UK) and RTÉ (ROI)