CAPE TOWN – Revenge is a dish best served cold, goes the old saying. The Springboks will not mind if they serve it cold, hot or lukewarm against Japan today.
But revenge will certainly be on their minds.
In our titles this week, we ran an evocative piece recreating the famous (or should we say infamous) day in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup, where Japan shocked the Boks and the rugby world with a 34-32 win.
It was a win masterminded by that old fox, Eddie Jones. The day before the game, Jones said: “If we get some early points, watch how nervy the Boks get.” And that is exactly what happened as the Brave Blossoms mowed the Boks down by their ankles to set up one of the greatest upsets in rugby history.
Today, the two teams meet again for the first time since Brighton 2015. It’s officially only a World Cup warm-up match, but you can be sure that it will be very serious stuff for both teams.
After announcing his first-choice team for the game, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus was at pains to point out: “I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan. We made the mistake of complacency in the past, but we’ve been hammering the message all week that we should never do that ever again against Japan.”
Let’s be honest: the Bok squad of 2019 is in a very different place to the team of 2015.
This is a Bok team riding high on confidence, a team who won their first Rugby Championship title in a decade, and who came desperately close to beating the All Blacks in New Zealand for a second year in a row.
This is a Bok team with great depth across almost all positions. The team Erasmus has selected for today’s game is well stocked with power in the forwards and skill in the backs. Plus the bench is also loaded with talent.
So don’t be surprised if the Boks dine out on revenge today, and set the tone for what we all hope will be a delicious World Cup for them.