LONDON • South African hooker Bismarck du Plessis believes the Springboks are like Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt - they are able to peak at the big events.
South Africa's hopes of a record third World Cup trophy have been discounted by many after a disappointing Rugby Championship, which included a historic defeat at the hands of Argentina.
But du Plessis - who is due to play in his third World Cup and has already experienced the thrill of lifting the trophy in 2007 - said that great teams, like great athletes, come good on the big occasions.
"I know not a lot is expected of us but we have great expectations," said the 31-year-old. "We give ourselves a chance. There could be seven games and the pressure mounts and we experienced players have been in the situation where you have to perform under the pressure. We have a good blend of youth and experience.
"It's all about how you peak at the big tournaments. If you look at someone like Usain Bolt, he can be injured for long periods, then he comes out and wins World Championships and Olympics. It's the same in our sport."
South Africa play Japan in their opening Pool B clash on Saturday in Brighton. They are hot favourites to steamroller their opponents but backs coach Ricardo Loubscher urged caution as the Japanese are coached by Australian Eddie Jones.
"Our focus is just to win this match and we're looking forward to the challenge," said Loubscher. "Eddie Jones is an astute coach who we worked with in 2007 and he will have insights that will help Japan and we're expecting a hard game."
Du Plessis - one of nine survivors from the 2007 World Cup-winning squad - said the players are ready to become the third Springboks side to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
"I can remember (watching) the World Cup win in 1995 like it was yesterday," said du Plessis.
"I was 11 and watching on TV in a room with 30 or 40 farmers. I remember Nelson Mandela in Francois Pienaar's shirt and that extraordinary tension in extra time and then history being made.
"I could never imagine then coming on in the 2007 final when John Smit was injured and helping South Africa win again. We've trained really hard and players like myself have been here before and now we can do our talking on the field."
South Africa play Samoa, Scotland and the United States in the remainder of the pool matches.