TOKYO, Japan, Oct 14 – South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said his team had “erased” their shocking loss to Japan in the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s ‘miracle of Brighton’ as they prepare to face the hosts in the quarter-finals.
Erasmus said a pre-tournament warm-up win over Japan, when they swept aside the Brave Blossoms 41-7 just days before the tournament, had exorcised the ghosts of 2015.
“In all honesty, the reason for that Japan warm-up game was to erase the Brighton game,” Erasmus told reporters in Tokyo.
“It’s 1-1 now and now we’re going to be in for a really tough game. One-one. And that game is in the past now and hopefully we won’t get asked about it,” he laughed.
Erasmus revealed that the South Africa management team had watched Japan beat Scotland 28-21 together but apart from the players.
“They are such a well-balanced team that it’s difficult to single out one particular guy. As a unit, they are a really formidable team,” said the Springbok coach.
Erasmus said he had already selected his starting XV for the quarter-final match and was “99 percent” sure that star winger Cheslin Kolbe would have recovered from an ankle injury to face Japan.
The coach said his gameplan largely based around kicking that worked well in the warm-up match would not be enough to get the job done this time — as his opposite number Jamie Joseph was “too sharp” for that.
He said he had been impressed at how Japan had varied their game depending on the opposition — noting that the Brave Blossoms had kicked only eight times against Scotland but 32 times against Samoa.
“We’ll have to come up with a totally new plan. Something to match their pace and speed,” he said.
– ‘Enemy for a week’ –
Erasmus joked that it was “really difficult not to like Japanese people” but would have to gee up his players to spoil the party for the hosts.
“We’re playing for our country and we want to try to win the World Cup. For the next week, unfortunately Japan is the enemy for one week.
“We love the country, we love the people but we have to try to beat them,” he said.
Prop Tendai Mtawarira, known as the “Beast” said the most important thing for the Springboks was to focus on their own performance.
“Most important thing is for us to stick to our gameplan. The challenge is not to get sucked into playing their game. We play our game,” said Mtawarira.
He also said that the “Miracle of Brighton” match would play no part in the Springbok preparations for the clash on Sunday.
“As the coach said, that game is in the past now. This is an entirely new challenge. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big one. They have been playing well. They are unbeaten so far. It’s a massive, massive game.”