Springboks / 8 September 2019, 1:00pm / Wynona Louw
While Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes the scoreboard flattered them in their 41-7 defeat of Japan in their final World Cup warm-up game on Friday, he was nontheless pleased with the performance in Kumagaya.
The Springboks scored six tries to the hosts’ one to secure a comfortable win in trying conditions, with wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe getting a hat-trick and a brace respectively, while Herschel Jantjies also added a try later in the game.
It’s a result the Boks can be happy with, and the fact that they experienced playing in those conditions ahead of the World Cup should serve as an advantage before facing New Zealand in their opener on September 21.
“There are some tired players in the change-room and some tired bodies but we haven’t got a lot of injuries and it has put us on the right track for the World Cup,” said Erasmus.
“Japan pushed us hard right to the end. At half-time we were leading 14-0 or 22-0 or something, but they scored that try after Frans Steyn had that pass go loose and that gave them hope.
“They are a dangerous team and really challenged us."
The Springboks put the Brave Blossoms’ back three under pressure with their kicking game throughout the match, and Erasmus said he was happy with the return they got from the approach.
“The game went pretty much as we wanted it to,” Erasmus added.
“We put up a lot of contestable kicks because they have not faced that many and we wanted to see how they handled that.
“We scored four of our seven tries from contestable kick turnovers so we’re happy how that turned out.
“Having said that, I think the scoreboard was flattering to us.”
Erasmus also said he expects ninth-ranked Japan to do well in the World Cup, while he also praised the home crowd for the way they treated them during the friendly.
“I really believe that if we progress from our pool there’s a chance we may meet them again.
“I haven’t before experienced the way the crowd respected the game, the way they applauded good play from both sides. When the replacements came on and were quiet for the kickers - well, that's not something we’ve experienced before.”
Following the news of former Springbok wing Chester Williams’ passing on Friday, Erasmus, who doubles as the SA director of rugby, said there was a great sadness in the camp.
“This was horrible news to wake up to. There was a very sombre mood in the breakfast room; it really is unbelievably sad news,” the coach lamented.
“I played with Chester and many of our management knew him well and we have all been in shock.
"Many of our players were too young to remember the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, but they have grown up watching highlights of the final and of Chester and know him as a rugby player who became an icon for our country.
“Only this week our management team was chatting to Chester about his plans to come to the tournament and about tickets for Rugby World Cup matches. It will take us some time to get over this shock.
“Our thoughts and prayers right now are particularly with the family that Chester has left behind, with Maria and the children. We have lost a legend; they have lost a husband and father. It’s probably no comfort to them now, but Chester’s name will go down with the greats of South African rugby as a player and for what he stood for in our country’s history."
The Boks yesterday moved from Kumagaya to a new training base in Kagashima.