He already has a World Cup winner’s medal but JP Pietersen wants to write a new story and build a fresh legacy over the next few weeks that will ensure that the triumph at the start of his career in 2007 will not be what he is remembered for.
The 29 year old is one of a clutch of Springboks who will be chasing a second World Cup win in England over the coming two months.
Unlike some of his peers, however, there is no question mark over his participation from an age viewpoint, as he was only 21 when he was a member of the team that John Smit led to victory in France eight years ago.
What might have been questioned was whether the 2015 vintage Pietersen was still as good as the youngster of 2007.
Pietersen would be the first to admit that he has been through a few form troughs in recent years, none more so than in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup, where the Boks lost in the quarterfinal round.
While he stops short of saying that there are demons that need to be exorcised after the disappointment of losing to Australia and Bryce Lawrence’s whistle in Wellington four years ago, the thirst to make a new imprint on the JP Pietersen CV has helped drive the hard work he says he has put in during training over the past five weeks.
“Maybe you will see a different JP in 2015, one that will make you forget the JP of 2007,” quipped Pietersen as he continued preparations for Friday’s squad departure to London.
“I can’t wait for the tournament to start. We have been together training for several weeks now, and we’ve really grown as a group.
We have become really tight, and I think we have the right blend between youth and experience. I really feel we’ve put in some great preparation for this World Cup, there has been a lot of attention to smaller detail that will ensure that, as coach Heyneke Meyer has said, we will be equipped to play the best rugby that a South African team has played at a World Cup.
“I’m not a young player any more, I have been around the block a few times, and I know myself better than when I was a youngster.
So I know when I am in peak condition, and there has been extensive work done on both my conditioning and my skills. The conditioning coach has really had a piece of me lately, but I’ve also worked hard on improving my explosiveness.”
Pietersen does sound like he’s ready to go, which will be good news for those who understand the value of the 60-cap backline player.
The 16 test tries he has scored are only part of the Pietersen story – he has also played a part in the creation of so many others, and his aerial abilities are vital to the Bok cause.
Although he started the international season for the Boks, it is sometimes overlooked by critics of the poor South African record in the last phase of the on-field build-up to the World Cup that Pietersen was one of several experienced players absent because of injury.
Pietersen withdrew from the team on the eve of the second Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against New Zealand and hasn’t played since.
However, Pietersen says the entire squad absorbed lessons during the Championship that could prove crucial to the winning of the World Cup.
For him, the Championship disaster was not something to be forgotten for the Boks, but an experience to be internalised and analysed.
“During the training camp we have all been involved in (in Durban) there was never any attempt to forget about the Championship.
Rather there was always a focus on trying to make it part of the learning curve towards the World Cup. The camp wasn’t about forgetting what had gone before, but about correcting what we did wrong, and focusing on the areas that require improvement.
“And I think it has worked. I feel like there has been a massive improvement for us in several areas during the course of the training camp.”
Of course it will all come down to how the Boks put it together on the field, but Pietersen believes the squad is ready to realise the goal that was set when Meyer first took over in 2012.
“When the coach took over he told us everything was focused towards winning the World Cup in four years’ time, and everything has been geared towards us reaching this point as well prepared and in the best possible space that we can be,” he said.
“The northern hemisphere teams will have home ground advantage, and that can’t be discounted. They will know the conditions better than us. But most of us have been there on end of year tours, and we’ve tended to do well in the northern hemisphere in the past.
There are always surprises in the World Cup, but we are focusing on ourselves and whatever situation we get ourselves into we will make the best of.
“All the focus is on the first game against Japan. We will be taking it game by game. We know what is needed to make our country proud, and that is to win every game we play. There has been a lot of stuff said away from the field, but we’ve always been tight, and both the positive and the negative stuff is what you get used to as a professional rugby player.
“The negative stuff can motivate players, but generally we’re not too concerned about what happens away from the field. We have good communication within the group, and juniors and youngsters are encouraged to communicate with each other and voice any concerns.”
Although he will serve as back-up to the outside centre position, Pietersen said he has been focusing on playing his regular position of right wing during the training sessions.
“I see myself as a 14, and I have been training as a 14. I will just be back-up for outside centre,” said the Sharks veteran.
Ed. Boks will get a send-off party at Montecasino, Fourways on Friday before departure in the evening.