Kolisi warns Japan will 'turn up the heat'
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Expectations are that South Africa will be on a mission for revenge. However, Springbok skipper Siyamthanda Kolisi expects the Brave Blossoms to turn up the heat.
The inspirational captain, Kolisi, has warned Japan that the Boks will be looking for retribution when the teams clash in a World Cup warm-up in Kumagaya on Friday.
The only change to a South Africa side who drew 16-16 with the All Blacks in Wellington six weeks ago after recovering from injury, Kolisi admitted Thursday that the memory of their stunning upset by Japan at the 2015 World Cup was still very raw.
“We don’t want to take emotion out of it,” said Kolisi, reminded of that humiliating 32-34 loss on the English south coast.
“What happened is in the past, but obviously we want to rectify that. There’s still a lot of us that played in that game – I think seven or eight, who still have that memory.
“It was tough to take,” he added. “It did make an impact on us losing that game. But it also made us stronger as a team.”
Twice World Cup winners, South Africa face treble-chasing New Zealand in a blockbuster Pool B opener in Yokohama on September 21, a day after hosts Japan open the tournament against Russia in Tokyo.
But Kolisi insisted the Springboks were not looking past Japan, who has become a regular fixture in rugby’s top 10 since winning three games under Eddie Jones at the last World Cup.
“That game really put Japan on the map,” said Kolisi of South Africa’s shock defeat in Brighton.
“They’ve been building from that and gone on to bigger things.
“They can turn up the heat at any time and we will have to be on our toes. We’re definitely not looking past this game at New Zealand.”
After limbering up by winning the Pacific Nations Cup, Japan coach Jamie Joseph has set the Brave Blossoms a target of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, where they could run into the Springboks again.
“I think they have a strong chance of making the knockout stage,” said Kolisi, who praised the leadership qualities of opposite number Michael Leitch.
“The World Cup is all about who wants it most on the day.”
After becoming South Africa’s first black Test captain last year, Kolisi is poised to mark another milestone by leading his country into the World Cup.
“I’m really grateful to be the Springboks captain,” said the 28-year-old, who returned to the line-up in last month’s 24-18 victory over Argentina in a World Cup tune-up.
“It’s something I would never have dreamed of in my wildest dreams. It really makes me happy to know where I came from. We all have different backgrounds in our team, but anyone from any walk of life can make it.”
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus has named a full-strength team to face the home side in Kumagaya, north of Tokyo, but Japan’s attack coach Tony Brown predicted that lightning could strike again.
“We’re not going out there to contain the score,” said the New Zealander.
“We’re going out to play our game and put them under pressure. If we get everything right, who knows, we could get a repeat of four years ago.”
A media contingent four times the size of one that would attend a captain’s press conference in South Africa turned up at the Kumagaya Stadium to watch the Boks’ captain’s run and press conference.
But the pressure on Kolisi is purely internal.
“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,” he told Japanese media through an interpreter.
“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.”
Kolisi was keen to highlight the challenge posed by Japan, while the local media mentioned the World Cup defeat in Brighton in 2015 in the only previous meeting between the teams on half a dozen occasions.
“It was tough losing that game and it did make an impact as you have seen in the interest in this game,” said Kolisi, one of eight survivors of that defeat who will reappear on Friday.
“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.
“They’re very strong at the breakdown, they have a strong kicking game – they have a good all-round game and they can turn up the heat at any time of the game and up-the-tempo. They will want to keep the ball in hand and aim for a long ball-in-play time. We have to be prepared for anything.
“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.”
Japanese media were keen to know what the captaincy meant to Kolisi: “I am very grateful to be the Springbok captain and it is not something that I would have thought of in my wildest dreams,” he said.
“It really makes me happy to know that a person from my background or from the background of anybody else in South Africa or a different walk of life, could be sitting here.
“The most important thing for me was just to be a Springbok – because there have not been many of them. To become captain was something extra that I never dreamed of. I am just honoured to be here and I just want to show that I can do the job by the hard I work I do on and off the field and the manner I carry myself.”
AUDIO ON 😂Scenes from the Captain's run before the Springboks take on Japan tomorrow 💚💛 #StrongerTogether #LoveJapan
Posted by Springboks on Thursday, 5 September 2019