Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi had a refreshing view on the expectations on the team this season, saying they viewed it as a privilege rather than pressure.
The Springboks will kick off the 2023 international season on Saturday, 8 July, against Australia in their opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, which marks the first of six Test matches before they begin their Rugby World Cup campaign in France.
With the team entering the international extravaganza as the defending champions and the excitement building for the global showpiece, expectations are high, but Mbonambi said it was something the side embraced.
“South African rugby fans don’t only have expectations on us in a World Cup year, it’s the same for every game we play,” said Mbonambi. “We feel the expectations, but we don’t see it as pressure, we see it as an honour and a privilege.
“Of course, we feel nervous, but we are also excited. We love it and enjoy it.”
Commenting on the team’s preparations this year compared to the 2019 when they lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan, Mbonambi said: “Four years ago was a completely different story. We were a bunch of new players coming together with a new coaching team and fresh plans, so it took longer to prepare and become aligned.
“This season we are finding our rhythm and aligning quicker, as we have known one another for four years longer, and we know what the coaches expect from us.
“As players we also know what to expect from each other and we are working harder because we can’t do what we did four years ago and expect the same result.
“We are currently putting our plans in place, and the alignment camps certainly helped in that regard. We are a big group, so everyone is being coached well in terms of our plans.”