Fiji hope an explosive World Cup start against ultra-minnows Namibia will help banish a troubled build-up and propel them towards a second successive quarterfinal.
A diplomatic row, illness and a string of poor results have all overshadowed preparations for the Pacific islanders, who are now sitting on their worst ever world ranking of 15th.
Forward Leone Nakarawa had to resign his army commission to even attend the World Cup after New Zealand refused to relax a ban on visits with people connected with Suva's military regime.
And they suffered a last-minute hitch when No.8 Sisa Koyamaibole was forced to fly home from New Zealand after his son fell ill.
"We'd rather him go there and sort out the situation than playing here and worrying about it from far away. We're comfortable with the decision," said coach Samu Domoni.
The difficult period, also including defeats to Samoa, Tonga and Japan, at least ensures there is no danger of complacency despite Fiji's 67-18 demolition of Namibia in 1999 - their biggest World Cup win.
"We're not going in too confident. We're there to do a job and the boys know the task ahead of them," Domoni said.
Castres centre Seremaia Bai is the only survivor from the 2007 quarterfinal against South Africa, while Waisea Luveniyali is preferred at flyhalf to the more experienced Nicky Little.
"Waisea has matured into his role and he's much fitter than when he came in to play against the Wallabies in 2009," Domoni said.
"The maturity that he's shown and the confidence with the people that are around him gives him the edge over Nicky."
Bai played in all five matches of Fiji's 2007 campaign scoring 10 of their 20 points in the quarterfinal, and is currently the country's fourth highest points scorer.
Captain Deacon Manu was expecting a tough forwards battle against Namibia, who are now competing in their fourth World Cup - but are still searching for their first win.
"It's a huge opportunity for us to put a marker down on the ground really early because we know they've taken apart some forward packs in recent months," Manu said.
"I think we've got a lot of leaders in the side, which is fantastic. Guys who have been to World Cups before. Even the people who aren't in the 22 are having a huge influence off the field and on the training pitch."
Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt has included two uncapped players, prop Raoul Larson and winger Danie Dames, while hooker Hugo Horn will become the country's oldest World Cup player at 34 years and 124 days.
However, Horn's record could prove short-lived if fellow front row forward Jane du Toit comes off the bench just three weeks short of his 36th birthday.
Scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies backed the Welwitschias to trouble Fiji in Saturday's Pool D clash in Rotorua.
"There's going to be a surprise on Saturday. We're going to surprise everybody," Jantjies said.
Players to watch:
For Fiji: You will always look at their big backline runners, with veteran centre Seremaia Bai top of that list, but the key is how flyhalf Waisea Sedre Luveniyali puts them into space. Up front prop and captain Deacon Manu will no doubt be leading from the front, while fellow prop Campese Ma'afu is another who could leave his mark.
For Namibia: The most high-profile of the minnows' players is Saracens-based loose forward Jacques Burger, also the captain. Others with first-class experience outside Namibia include Danie Dames, Jacques Nieuwenhuis, Nico Esterhuyse, Hugo Horn and Jane Du Toit.
Head to head: There is no doubt that it is up front where Namibia must stamp their authority, otherwise they face a long day of tackling, tackling and more tackling. In the scrums the Fijian combination of Deacon Manu, Viliame Veikoso and Campese Ma'afu face the Namibian trio of Raoul Larson, Hugo Horn and Johnnie Redelinghuys in a vital set-piece showdown. The same goes for the line-out battle - where Wame Lewaravu and Leone Nakarawa (Fiji) go up against Nico Esterhuyse and Heinz Koll (Namibia).
1999: Fiji won 67-18, Beziers (World Cup pool match)
Prediction: There is little doubt that the Fijians are outright favourites, and rightly so. They have the experience, muscle power and skill. It is a matter of the margin, not who will win and it will be an upset if Namibia get to within 20 points of the Pacific islanders. Fiji to win by at least 40 points.
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Waisea Sedre Luveniyali, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Netani Edward Talei, 7 Mala Ravulo, 6 Dominiko Maiwiriwiri Waqaniburotu, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Sunia Koto, 17 Waisea Nailago, 18 Seko Kalou, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Vitori Tomu Buatava, 21 Albert James Vulivuli, 22 Iliesa Lomani Rakuka Keresoni.
Namibia: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Danie Van Wyk, 12 Piet Van Zyl, 11 Conrad Marais, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 7 Jacques Burger (captain), 6 Tinus Du Plessis, 5 Nico Esterhuyse, 4 Heinz Koll, 3 Raoul Larson, 2 Hugo Horn, 1 Johnnie Redelinghuys.
Replacements: Bertus O'Callaghan, Jane Du Toit, Pieter Jan van Lill, Rohan Kitshoff, Ryan De La Harpe, Darryl De La Harpe, Llewellyn Winkler.
Date: Saturday, September 10
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Kick-off: 15.30 (03.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly fine, with some clouds. High of 15°C and a low of 7°C
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Jérôme Garces (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
AFP & rugby365.com
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