MARSEILLE, France : Scotland have plenty of confidence they can upset champions South Africa in their opening game of Rugby World Cup in Marseille on Sunday but will have to break new ground if they are to get their Pool B campaign off to the perfect start.
Coach Gregor Townsend has developed a settled squad since a first round exit in Japan four years ago, one that is hitting form at the right time.
But they have never beaten the Springboks outside of Scotland and lost their last seven in a row against the three-time World Cup winners.
“It’s obviously an opportunity for us,” Townsend told reporters on Friday. “That’s the way we look at it. You have to play at your best to beat the best teams.
“Success (at this tournament) is delivering what we believe are capable of. No doubt there’ll be times where South Africa have dominance and points on the board. There’ll be times when we are unable to execute things as well as we like.
“And that’s not because it’s the first game of the World Cup. It’s because of the opposition and what they bring with their pressure.
“But we we’ve got to find a way to win. And that’s what this World Cup is about, finding a way to win.”
Townsend accepts his side are underdogs, but believes the never-say-die mindset that saw them come back to beat France at home and narrowly lose the following week in Saint-Etienne in the warm-up fixtures can help them get over the line.
“That mindset is a good one to have but we also need to believe we can win,” he said. “And if we’re ahead of the game, we need to put the foot down and keep playing and doing the things that got us ahead. So you just got to balance that underdog spirit with the mindset that you’re here to win.”
Pool B is expected to be a tight one with world number one Ireland also in the group and no certainty that Sunday’s victors will be one of the two teams to advance to the quarter-finals.
“We believe we have been building to our best performance and I know that is a continual journey,” Townsend said.
“The players must deliver what they have been doing in training and in other game this year and I have every faith they will be able to do that.”