Rassie Erasmus says that Ireland and Japan will pose different threats and that he won’t begin analysis for the quarter-final until the Springboks’ opponents are confirmed. JON CARDINELLI in Kobe reports.
The Boks thrashed Canada 66-7 on Tuesday to move to the top of Pool B. If the All Blacks beat Italy on Saturday, however, they will win the pool and push the Boks down to second place.
Japan, Ireland and Scotland are still jousting for playoff positions at this stage. If Japan beat Scotland on Sunday, they will top Pool A and set up a quarter-final showdown with the Boks.
Typhoon Hagibis, the storm set to hit Tokyo this weekend, could also have a say in the final standings.
The Bok coach laughed when he was asked on Tuesday whether he’d rather play Japan or Ireland in the quarter-finals.
‘That’s a loaded question. If I say one team, I will get into trouble. If I say the other, I will still get into trouble.
‘I know the Irish players well [having spent a couple of seasons with Munster] and I know that Joe Schmidt is an excellent coach. I would be nervous about playing them in a playoff.
‘However, I did say before that I believe Japan will be a bigger threat than most believe at this tournament. They smashed more fancied teams like Fiji and USA in the Pacific Cup, and they beat Ireland comfortably recently.
‘It’s hard to pick between the two. Ireland will bring the aerial challenge. Japan will try to hurt you with their phase play. But then you might end up playing Scotland. There’s a typhoon out there, too, that could make things very interesting for everyone in the coming days.’
The Boks will have a couple of days off before reconvening on Friday. While they may enjoy as many as 11 days before their quarter-final, they will only begin their analysis once their opponents are confirmed.
‘It’s funny, when I was part of the Bok coaching staff at the 2011 World Cup, we did all the analysis expecting to play Ireland in the quarter-final. Then Ireland went and beat Australia in the pool stage and we ended up playing Australia in the playoff [and ended up losing 11-9].
‘We will sit together and watch those games together as a team this weekend. It’s makes a bit more exciting not knowing who we will face next. It really spices things up.’
Bok captain Siya Kolisi says the players are looking forward to the buildup to the playoffs.
‘We have some extra time prepare now, and we need to make it count,’ he said. ‘We’re looking forward to watching those games and looking at what our opponents will bring.
‘We know that if we don’t pitch up for that match we will go home.’
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