Pierre Schoeman is adamant Scotland are in a strong position and just require some post-Six Nations “fine-tuning” in order to be ready for the World Cup later this year.
After winning their first two games, the Scots’ hopes of silverware were dashed by back-to-back defeats against the world’s top two sides, France and Ireland.
But prop Schoeman feels the Scots have shown in this campaign that the fundamentals are all in place for them to be successful and is confident they will be equipped to progress from a formidable World Cup group that includes South Africa and Ireland in the autumn.
“We have to believe that we have the cohesion, we have the players, team and management as well as the experience to go in against these teams,” said the 28-year-old.
“That’s exactly what you need to build on ahead of a World Cup and we need to use this Six Nations.
“We have to go for those first two spots, first or second (in the World Cup group).
“We know what happened in France and against Ireland, who are the best team in the world at the moment, so there are things we need to problem solve on the pitch.
“We will reflect after this campaign on what we need to fine-tune for the World Cup.”
Scotland competed well at BT Murrayfield against Ireland on Sunday and trailed by just one point before the world’s top-ranked side seized control with two tries around the hour mark. Schoeman feels the experience of last weekend will be invaluable come the World Cup.
“We can learn a lot from that,” said Schoeman. “We are in the same World Cup pool as Ireland and we are really looking forward to that game now.
“We need to take the learnings about making sure we are finishing tries. There was one we went into touch and then we missed in the contact area.
“If you look at the contact area, some of our best work was done there, especially during the first 40 minutes. That 40 minutes was some of our best work during this Six Nations campaign.
“But you can’t let teams like that off the hook. At the 55-minute mark we allowed a good team to score two tries. That’s where we need to be at our best.”
A victory over Italy on Saturday will likely see Scotland finish as best of the rest behind Ireland and France in the Six Nations table.
And Schoeman feels a win this weekend will maintain the sense of momentum building around the team in the run-up to the World Cup.
“Saturday is extremely important as Italy are hurting as well as they feel they could have done more damage,” said the Edinburgh prop.
“They are very passionate, so we have to be on it like never before in this Six Nations. We need to finish strong. Third place isn’t the best we would have wanted but we faced two teams who are in the top two in the world.
“If it’s second or third place (in the Six Nations), then we need to fight for that.
“It serves us well going into the World Cup in terms of preparation. We need to play with confidence at the World Cup but the first task is to finish the job now against Italy.
“There is everything to play for still. This game is massive and we can’t allow it to slip away from us.
“All of the boys are very excited to play this week. We need to leave everything out on the pitch.”
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