CAPE TOWN – The Springboks are going to have to be on their toes at all times when they face Japan in their final World Cup warm-up game today (12.15pm kick-off).
That’s according to returning Bok skipper Siya Kolisi, and it’s certainly an outlook that was missing when South Africa succumbed to the Brave Blossoms in their first and only meeting at the last World Cup back in 2015.
Earlier this week, coach Rassie Erasmus said the one key they have been hammering on whole week was the fact that there can be no room for complacency this time.
And while Kolisi - who will lead the team for the first time in nine months in Kumagaya - said the Brighton occurrence was a result that put Japan on the map, and rightfully so, he was quick to point out that Japan have grown since then.
Since that 34-32 coup over the Boks under Eddie Jones, Japan have done everything but sit back and accept that famous win as “enough”.
In the last two years, the Brave Blossoms, coached by former Highlanders and Sunwolves coach Jamie Josephs, have won six of their nine Tests to climb to ninth on the rankings. Their results include claiming the Pacific Nations Rugby Championship after beating Fiji, Tonga and the USA, while they have also secured a W against Italy last year. It may not be a win, but the fact that they led England at halftime at Twickenham of all venues in November last year is also testament to their progress.
And Kolisi is expecting no easy run.
“It was tough losing that game (in Brighton) and it did make an impact as you have seen in the interest in this game,” said Kolisi, one of eight survivors of that 34-32 defeat who will reappear today.
“It did make us stronger as a team, but it really put Japan on the rugby map. They have done good things since then.
“They’re much fitter and stronger and they know their systems and the game they want to play, and it’s going to be a whole new challenge for us.”
The pace at which Japan can play, especially in those conditions, already flags them as “not to be underestimated”. But there is also their breakdown work, while Kolisi specifically mentioned their kicking game as a threat as well.
🎥 Massive media interest in the #Springboks— Springboks (@Springboks) September 5, 2019
😃 Siya Kolisi very happy to be back
💪 Much-improved @JRFURugby team waiting in Kumagaya on Friday
🔗 https://t.co/mEE9IQMomz#StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/qDLSQJCwmn
“We will stick to what we know best and to our strengths. They will obviously have prepared for us - but in the same way we have prepared for them. We will have to make sure we are on our toes at all times,” he said.
The loose forward added that the support he received from his teammates throughout his recovery from a knee injury made the whole process easier.
“Rather than coming back into a team that was losing all the time, I was coming back into a team that was winning, which was extra pressure,” Kolisi said.
“It was tough watching from the sidelines, but the great thing was that I was involved the whole time. The coach made sure that I was in all the meetings and I ran the water in one game, which was completely amazing and different; it’s as involved as you can be in a Test match without actually playing.
“And I could see how hard the guys were working. I have to say, this is a special group and what makes them so special is that they work so hard for one another.
“All I was banking on was that as soon as my injury was healed, I was fit and ready to take my place. The support I have had from my teammates has been amazing. That’s one thing I enjoy about this team - I’m just grateful to be part of it.”
The teams for today's clash in Kamagaya are:
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
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.
15 William Tupou, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Keita Inagaki
Subs: 16 Takuya Kitade, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.@WynonaLouw