When Scotland first scrums against the Springboks in their World Cup opener on Sunday, they will do so in confidence, propped up by two South Africans coached by Pieter De Villiers.
In his playing days, De Villiers was known as a tactically strong prop and a beast in the scrum. Born in the Western Cape town of Malmesbury, he won 68 caps for France and appeared in two Rugby World Cups for his adopted country.
The 51-year-old was brought into the Scotland set-up in 2019 and has been credited with shoring up the front five of the world’s fifth-ranked team.
“You can never hide from the set-piece. It is about taking them on, it’s always about that one-on-one physicality. There is no hiding in the set-piece,” De Villiers said.
The South African, who was a long-time regular at Paris-based Stade Francais in the Top 14, said facing his home nation would be memorable.
“It’s always the same. They are all very special moments,” he said. “For the players who have worked so hard for a long time, getting to participate in this is really special.
“As a coach you don’t have that extra special feeling of being on the field but the pleasure of working with players and helping them and the team grow is a huge satisfaction.”
His is not the only South African accent to bless the Scotland squad. Apart from stand-out winger Duhan van der Merwe, others who have switched allegiance include a second wing in Kyle Steyn and props WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman.
“The training week is similar to what we have been doing, but it’s been adapted to what we want to get right for the World Cup,” De Villiers said.
“There will be some tactical and strategic things that are specific to South Africa. But we also want to keep doing things the way we have been doing them.”
De Villiers added: “They are world champions, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to play against them. They have recently shown why they are champions” by posting a record 35-7 victory over New Zealand last month.
“They did well against the All Blacks and excelled in their strengths which is the set-piece and defence.
“We know what will be coming our way. Each team has got different super-strengths.
“It’s about the team that is going to do the best in bringing those to the table and making sure we impose how we want to play. That’s really important.”
World Rugby vice-chairman and former Scotland player John Jeffrey was confident Scotland could perform against the mighty Boks.
“We are number five in the world, we have never been number five before,” he said. “The statistics show it. I genuinely think this is the best (Scotland team), just look at our results against England and France in recent years.
“We just have to beat Ireland now. We’ve not beaten them for a few years,” Jeffrey added, with the Irish, Tonga and Romania making up the rest of a tough Pool B.
© Agence France-Presse