Rassie Erasmus says prospect of facing Japan in World Cup quarters is 'scary'
“It’s scary”‚ Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said succinctly at the prospect of his team playing Japan in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup (RWC).
Erasmus had initially raised the spectre of having to play the fired up host nation in the knockout phase following his team’s victory over Japan in a warm-up match in Kumagaya on September 6.
It has now become a very real prospect after Japan toppled Ireland‚ the team who had topped rugby’s world rankings last week‚ 19-12 at the Shizuoka Stadium.
“If they manage to beat Scotland‚ they can be on top of the pool‚ and if we manage to beat Italy‚ then that’s a realistic option.
"And also a scary option‚” Erasmus noted.
“You can really be proud of your team (Japan).
"We beat them 41-7‚ and I said it wasn’t a true reflection of the game because if we manage to get through to the quarterfinals‚ I'm pretty sure we might play Japan in the quarterfinals.”
Japan are likely to be a handful to their opponents at this RWC.
The stifling humidity‚ which makes for greasy conditions‚ plays into their favour.
They play a high intensity‚ quick paced game that places significant physical demands on their opponents. Ireland looked spent in the closing minutes of that defeat in Shizuoka. “A week ago‚ I said if we manage to beat Italy‚ and Ireland manage to beat Japan‚ then we might meet Ireland‚ but both of us have to get past those hurdles‚” said Erasmus.
“Now Ireland didn't‚ and we still have to play Italy. I always knew that Japan were a realistic contender for the quarter-finals‚” said Erasmus.
That pool will likely only be decided when Japan play Scotland on October 13‚ the last pool match at this tournament.
The defeat will come as a stinging blow to Ireland who have had their chests out since beating Scotland last Sunday.
It extends Ireland’s unflattering record of suffering defeat in all of their five encounters with the host nation at a RWC.
Japan’s first win over Ireland in eight encounters has been well received and has energised the tournament.
“There was a lot of belief around. In what we were doing and what we wanted to do‚” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.
He then drilled down into what potentially handed his side the advantage.
“The Irish are a quality side and we have been preparing for this game a hell of a lot longer than the Irish have. The last year at least‚ if not the last three years.
"The Irish have been thinking about this game since Monday‚” said Joseph.
SA-born stand-in captain Lappies Labuschagne praised the Brave Blossom’s collective effort.
“It was more than the 23 guys on the pitch. There was a mass belief in the squad and there was the belief we could do something different.”
There have now been 11 RWC victories by a Tier 2 side over Tier 1 opponents and Japan have accounted for the last two. They also beat South Africa at RWC 2015.
Other Tier 2 teams who beat Tier 1 teams are (Western) Samoa (5)‚ Fiji (2) and Tonga (2).