Cape Town — Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has opened up on his emotional state ahead of his side's 2019 Rugby World Cup opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama on Saturday.
Erasmus has played against the All Blacks at a World Cup, but this will be a very different experience as he looks to guide the Boks to a third World Cup title and first since 2007.
There is a lot of expectation from the South African rugby public, and it doesn't get much better than a fixture against the defending champions and tournament favourites in round one.
Speaking in Tokyo on Wednesday after naming his side for the match, Erasmus emphasised how much this fixture meant to the Boks given the history between the sides and how much respect they have for the All Blacks.
"I played against the All Blacks in the World Cup for the bronze medal in 1999," Erasmus recalled.
"That wasn't a great experience - we did win the game, but it wasn't the nicest feeling playing in the third/fourth place playoff.
"I've coached against them prior to the World Cup in 2011, which was also a preparation match in Port Elizabeth, then the last three Test matches, but this is the first time in the World Cup that I am part of the coaching team, as the head coach.
"(I have) a lot of emotions, which vary from excitement to nerves to pride. This is a big game for us, not just in terms of advancing to playoff mode, but just the history between us and New Zealand.
"There is a lot at stake in terms of pride and respect between the countries and as a head coach it makes me really proud to be with these boys in this match and knowing that both teams have equal chances in this match."
"We will always have massive respect for New Zealand ... not because they are No 1 in the world, but because there is such a history between us.
"I've been playing against them since 1996, and there has always been this rivalry on the field, but just off the field, there is really a great respect - between coaches, between players."
Erasmus added that the respect between the sides was mutual and that there was a healthy relationship between the sides.
"It's friendly off the field, and the way we do things in the changing rooms afterwards," he said.
"Getting smashed 57-0 (in 2016) was really low for us and we had to hit rock bottom to start building up and getting respect back in world rugby.
"We felt that the only way to do that was to beat New Zealand in New Zealand and we had a lot of luck and did that.
"It will be very sad if we lose on Saturday but it's not the end and then the Italy game becomes really important to come out of the pool.
"If you lose, you always lose a bit of confidence and then you have to rebuild again. Although the world ranking says they are No 2, I think they are No 1 in the world."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 11:45 (SA time).
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel
15 Beauden Barrett 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Ben Smith
- Compiled by Lloyd Burnard