Rassie's selection show the ‘utmost respect’ Boks have for Japan
Springboks / 4 September 2019, 09:00am / Wynona Louw
KUMAGAYA – After naming his team to face Japan in their final World Cup warm-up game in Kumagaya on Friday, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said he hopes that the selections would send a strong message of respect to the hosts.
And it did, or at least it should have.
The team for the friendly features 22 players who formed part of the match-day squad that secured a dramatic late draw against New Zealand during the Rugby Championship. Skipper Siya Kolisi is the only addition to that group, and there are 18 changes to the side that defeated Argentina in their last Rugby Championship match.
While the Bok coach said their first priority is to beat Japan, he admitted that this game is also about preparing for New Zealand, who they face in their first World Cup assignment in Yokohama. And why wouldn’t it be?
The fact that Erasmus named such a quality team for their friendly against the host does show that the South Africans aren’t going into this match expecting little more than an opposed practice session.
It shows that they mean business, as they should, two weeks out from the World Cup.
But other than just trying to prevent Brighton Part 2 from ending up in the rugby horror movies aisle, this match is also the precursor to the big one on 21 September, warm-up or not, so New Zealand should matter, even before the Boks go into their fixture against Japan.
If South Africa can produce a pleasing performance in extreme humidity, against a style of play not too far from what they will face against the Kiwis in their opener in terms of speed and tempo, they’ll have passed their first test.
If the playing personnel that will in all likelihood go up against the All Blacks deliver on Friday, it will sure do a lot for the Boks’ confidence levels before the World Cup kicks off.
But given what happened in 2015, when the Boks suffered a now-infamous 34-32 defeat to Japan at the last World Cup, Erasmus made it a point to state that there will be no room for complacency this time.
“I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan,” he said after naming his team yesterday.
“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. This Test is as big a challenge as any we’ve had this season.”
“That kind of result can easily happen again if we don’t learn from the past.”
By no means am I saying that the Boks should mentally skip this warm-up game and allow all their focus to drift away to 21 September. If that was the case they would literally be asking for another upset.
But their looming game against New Zealand is a factor, because how the Boks go on Friday, in those conditions especially, will give them a good idea of where they stand and what they need to fine tune or focus on ahead of their opener.
Naming such a strong team was a good start from Erasmus - both for their contest against Japan and in terms of preparation for the All Black game - now the Boks just need to make sure they build on it when they run out on Friday.
The Springboks side is:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff