No-frills Boks can think out of the box to beat pacy Japan
The hosts want to run the Boks off their feet in a game played at a screeching tempo; the Boks want to slow the game down, impose their greater physicality on their opponents and suck them into an arm wrestle where there will be only one winner.
What I enjoy about this Springbok side is that they can choke teams to death with an abrupt, no-frills game but, unlike previous Bok sides, Rassie Erasmus’ charges can open the taps on attack should they choose to, not only because they have the players equipped with the requisite skills but, more importantly, because they have the positive mindset to do so.
The 2015 World Cup Boks, for example, played route one, conservative rugby well enough to get them into the semi-finals but they didn’t have the willingness to attack that might have taken them further.
Rassie’s team can play more than one kind of game, Heyneke Meyer’s Boks could not.
Jake White’s World Cup winners were described as the most boring team to win the Webb Ellis Cup (by non-South Africans of course!) but the bottom line is that South Africa’s name is engraved on that Cup for the year 2007.
That Springbok team perfected a plan that suffocated teams into submission.
White cut a suit according to the cloth at his disposal and it won a World Cup but, thankfully, 12 years later we have a team that can bash you senseless but also dazzle you dizzy, if it chooses to.
I recall John Smit reflecting on how the Boks won in 2007. He said: “We were like a massive python that you want to keep at a distance. If you get too close it wraps you up slowly and starts squeezing.
"After 60 minutes the opposition have had no ball, penetration or opportunities in our 22. We have stolen their line-outs and tackled them backwards. They can’t breathe and then they die!”
For this particular game, that is how Rassie is going to have his team play but with the option that if the Japanese are on the back foot and there is space and opportunity out wide, the backs can have a go.
If it is on, the ball will be moved to Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi.
Expect the Boks to repeatedly smash it up the middle, which will suck in the Japanese defenders and tempt them into entering the rucks from the sides where, hopefully, referee Wayne Barnes will ping them.
The Boks will kick, but shrewdly, opting to do so when they have established momentum through their big ball carriers and with the opposition on the back foot, Handre Pollard can drive the ball into the space at the back.
Far rather that than Faf de Klerk feeding the Japanese with botched box kicks.
If the Boks can implement this accurately, they will put 20 points on Japan.