Can Boks prevent land of the sun from rising?
As much as Rassie Erasmus and his Springbok coaching staff have tried to dampen predictions that they will look to bludgeon Japan into submission in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal on Sunday, that is exactly what Jamie Joseph expects them to do.
Joseph’s Brave Blossoms qualified for their first quarterfinal after they won Pool A with a scintillating style of up-tempo rugby that included wins over Ireland and Scotland.
However the Springboks, who were beaten by Japan at the 2015 tournament in the largest upset in World Cup history, are not going to allow their opponents to play their brand of organised chaos at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday
“What is clear is what SA are going to do,” Joseph told reporters on Friday. “It's not unique, but shows they are physically going to approach the match using their forwards and being very physical.
"[The] consistency of their game is about giving the opposition the ball and using their defence and big forwards to pressure (us) ... and I guess that’s what we’ve been preparing for all the way.”
Erasmus and assistant coach Matt Proudfoot emphasised they would not be one-dimensional and SA do have a more attacking and balanced game than Ireland, who were beaten 19-12 by Japan in pool play.
The former Springbok loose forward, however, picked a pack built to grind down the Japanese forwards and then loaded his bench with six forward replacements.
Erasmus said that was to ensure that when they came on in the second half they would be fresh and able to close the gaps about the fringes, which Japan expertly exploited with clever running angles at pace against Scotland last Sunday.
More importantly, Erasmus wanted his side to dictate the pace of the game to ensure that Japan’s high- tempo attack did not get into a rhythm.
“We will definitely try to play the game at our pace, and they will try to play the game at their pace,” Erasmus said.
“That will be a tactical battle, and it’s tough for me to say now who will be able to enforce that.
“But that will be a really big battle from the coaching staff, and the 15 players on the field.”
While Karne Hesketh’s try that sealed a 34-32 victory and the “Brighton Miracle” four years ago has dominated the conversation in the lead-up, Joseph added that it had not factored into his side’s preparations.
“I’ve been trying to forget about it for the last four years,” Joseph said after he had made just one injury-enforced change to the side that sealed their quarterfinal place with a 28-21 win over Scotland.
“Everyone talked about it ([and] that was an amazing achievement at the last World Cup, [but] we’re working on our own things and we won’t be alluding to it.”
15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Substitutes: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Lomano Lava Lemeki
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 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn