Rassie's powerful World Cup message
REACTION: South Africa is determined not to repeat the blunders of four years ago.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus dismissed the notion that Friday’s outing against World Cup hosts Japan would be a ‘walk in the park’ and described the Brave Blossoms as a “dangerous team.
Erasmus named what is perceived to be his ‘A-Team’, as the two-time champions bid to put down a marker and avenge the biggest upset in the game’s history.
Captain Siyamthanda Kolisi comes back into the side after fully recovering from a knee injury – the only change from the 23 selected for the 16-all draw with New Zealand in July – a result that set South Africa on their way to winning their first Rugby Championship.
“I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan,” Erasmus said.
“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,” added the coach.
The current Springbok World Cup squad has nine survivors of that matchday 23 that suffered the ignominy of a loss to Japan four years ago – Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kolisi, Francois Louw, Eben Etzebeth, Lodewyk de Jager, Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane.
De Jager is the only one that will not feature on Friday.
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“That kind of result can easily happen again if we don’t learn from the past,” The Bok coach said.
“Our players who were there have held up their hand and said they totally underestimated Japan.
“If our mindset isn’t right and we’re looking beyond this game, then we’ll play right into Japan’s hands.
“This Test is as big a challenge as any we’ve had this season,” stressed Erasmus.
He pointed out that Japan is currently ranked 10th in the world – ahead of teams like Argentina, Italy, Tonga and Samoa.
“We want to prepare for [the opening World Cup game against] New Zealand in two weeks’ time,” Erasmus said, adding: “But first we have to face Japan, who beat us last time [in the 2015 World Cup.
“We take Japan very seriously.
“That is why we selected such a strong team. It is [to show our] respect to Japan.”
He suggested that Japan player a similar high-tempo game as New Zealand – with quick set-piece restarts.
“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.”
With just over two weeks until the World Cup kicks off, South Africa is one of the favourites after winning the Rugby Championship for the first time after victories against Argentina and Australia and the draw in New Zealand.
South Africa will face the All Blacks again in their blockbuster Pool B opener in Yokohama on September 21 – with both teams aware that no team has ever gone on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a pool game.
They will also face Italy, Canada and Namibia with the top two in the pool progressing to the quarterfinals.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph has admitted his team, now ranked 10th in the world, can no longer rely on the element of surprise, having acquired a reputation for playing an attacking and effective style of rugby.
Joseph has set Japan the goal of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in their history.
The hosts kick off the World Cup against Russia on September 20 and will also face Samoa, Ireland and Scotland in Pool A.