KUMAGAYA – Rassie Erasmus underlined that the Test against Japan in Kumagaya is a massive challenge and that the Springboks can't afford to underestimate their hosts when they take the field at 12h15 (SA time) on Friday.
Erasmus named a formidable team to face the Japanese, indicating that the Boks don't take this Test lightly.
“I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan,” said Erasmus, who is also SA Rugby's Director of Rugby.
“Perhaps we made the mistake of complacency against them in the past but we’ve been hammering the message all week that we should never do that again against Japan.
“They’re a smart team of great athletes, playing at home, having won a title in the past month and now desperate to prove something. This Test is as big a challenge as any we’ve had this season.”
Japan beat Fiji, the USA and Tonga to claim the Pacific Rugby Championship recently and have been in camp lying in wait for the Springboks, said Erasmus.
The Japanese have a 100 percent record against South Africa, having famously won the only meeting between the teams, 34-32, at Brighton in England during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The current Springbok squad has nine survivors of that match-day 23 – Kriel, Handré Pollard, Du Toit, Kolisi, Francois Louw, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane – and Erasmus said the 2019 squad had discussed that match. Only De Jager will not re-appear on Friday.
“That kind of result can easily happen again if we don’t learn from the past,” he said.
“Our players who were there have held up their hand and said they totally under-estimated Japan. If our mindset isn’t right and we’re looking beyond this game then we’ll play right into Japan’s hands.
“This is a Springbok Test match against a team ranked in the world’s top ten, in their backyard, and we’ve got to be full-on if we want to win – anything less and we’ll be in trouble.”