Rassie pays respect to 'New Zealand-like' Japan

Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus' decision to field his strongest possible matchday squad for Friday's clash against Japan in Kumagaya is two-fold. 

Firstly, Erasmus and the Boks want to make a point of showing respect for the 2019 World Cup hosts, especially given what happened at the 2015 World Cup on one of rugby's great days when Japan stunned South Africa in Brighton. 

Secondly, and more importantly, this is an opportunity for the Boks to have one final hit-out with what they consider to be their strongest side ahead of their September 21 World Cup opener against the mighty All Blacks in Yokohama. 

There are still a couple of positions up for grabs, where performances in Friday could impact Erasmus' selection for Yokohama, but for the most part this is a settled unit. 

Perhaps the only area where there could be changes is in the front row where all of Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane could step in for Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe, respectively. 

Erasmus and the Boks landed in Japan at the beginning of the week, and they already have a couple of training sessions under the belt. 

With the heat and humidity expected to play a major role at the tournament, Erasmus is hopeful that being the first of the visiting sides to land on Japanese soil will be beneficial as the competition unfolds. 

Before any of that, though, the Boks must look to right the wrongs of 2015 with a polished display against Japan on Friday that gets their World Cup campaign moving in the right direction. 

"We respect Japan a lot. They are a very good team and they're ranked No 9 in the world," Erasmus told media after naming his side on Tuesday. 

"The second thing is that we want to prepare for New Zealand, who we play in two weeks' time.

"But first, we play Japan, so that is why we've picked a very strong team."

Erasmus believes that the game styles of Japan and New Zealand are similar in ways, and he is counting on that to help with preparation for Yokohama. 

"The way Japan plays is a lot like New Zealand," he said.

"It is a high-speed, high-tempo game and they play a loose kind of game. We expect the same kind of games against New Zealand, so that is one of the things we'll try take from this."

One certainty is that the Boks will not be taking anything for granted. 

"We played against Argentina and we almost lost to them in South Africa (at Loftus), and I think they're No 10 or No 11 in the world, so we take Japan very seriously," Erasmus said.

"We don't think they are a small New Zealand, we think they are a big Japan."

Erasmus also opened up further on the decision to travel to Japan early. 

"If we manage to go all the way, one week extra will be a small sacrifice," he said.

"Just  with the training we have had in the last three days we think we will get the benefit, because it's totally different conditions and we felt it."

Kick-off on Friday is at 12:15 (SA time). 




South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff 

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel  

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