Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has highlighted the threat of Japan’s wings ahead of the quarter-final showdown on Sunday. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
Japan won all four of their pool games – including two crunch matches against Ireland and Scotland – via a high-tempo ball-in-hand approach. Predictably, all the talk in the buildup to the quarter-final clash with South Africa has focused on the Brave Blossoms’ attack.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph likened Kotaro Matsushima to a Ferrari after the South African-born wing scored a hat-trick against Russia in the opening game of the tournament. Matsushima has added two more touchdowns to his tally since that fixture and is currently the joint-top try-scorer of the tournament.
The Boks feel that the comparison between Matsushima and the race car is fair. Stick went out of his way to talk up the Japan attack and the backline in particular at a media conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.
‘We saw the speed and tempo that they played with against Scotland,’ the Bok assistant coach said. ‘They’re planning to keep the ball in play for 50 minutes. They’re a very skilled and well-coached side, so we will have to stay on our toes.
‘You only have to look at the background of some of their coaches to understand their mindset. The New Zealand philosophy is evident and the style of play is similar to that of the All Blacks. They also remind me of Argentina, though, in terms of how they attack,’ Stick added.
‘As Jamie Joseph said, they’ve got those two Ferraris on the wings and we will have to work hard to keep them in check.’
Whether the Boks will look to engage Japan in a race to the finish line is another story. Stick suggested that the quarter-final could witness a clash of styles.
‘We are proud South Africans and we have our own style of play,’ he said.
‘It’s about focusing on our own strengths ahead of that contest. Imposing our own plan on the opposition is something we are looking forward to.’