Former champions South Africa will look to hammer home their credentials as potential tournament winners by beating two-time quarter-finalists Samoa at the Parc des Princes today in their World Cup opener.
South Africa, the 1995 champions, with coach Jake White at the helm have built themselves into one of the few teams capable of stopping the All Blacks.
It is a far cry from the humiliating spectacle of 2003 where they only managed to reach the last eight.
That bitter experience certainly left a mark on the veterans of that campaign.
"We have spent four years waiting for this. It has been a long time coming," said hooker and captain Jon Smit, who will lead the Springboks for a record 43rd time today.
Even though Samoa may not seem the toughest task to tackle -- especially given the 'Boks have a record of five wins out of five against them scoring 257 points against just 58 -- White has assembled an experienced line-up with 609 caps between them.
Numbered among them is dashing fullback Percy Montgomery -- who missed the 2003 debacle -- and venerable prop Os du Randt, the only surviving member of the 1995 squad.
White is not underestimating the Samoans.
"Remember the 2003 World Cup when Samoa caused England problems in the pool games," White said. "Not so much the result [England won 35-22] but the way in which they played before being dominated. We expect them to start against us in the same way."
Meanwhile the Samoans had to be "rescued" by residents of Paris after arriving in the French capital without enough money to feed themselves, the New Zealand Herald reported yesterday.
The newspaper said an "extraordinary rescue package" was put together by residents of the Haute de Seine district when they found the Samoans could not afford to pay for meals in a city as expensive as Paris.
Residents took the players out for meals and drinks and arranged sightseeing trips after learning of their plight. The director of sports in the Haute de Seine, former rugby player Patrick Tachdjian, said citizens were happy to rally to the Samoans' aid.
"We just did what we could when we heard about the Samoans' difficult situation," he said. "It was something we were happy to do, to help them."