The Springboks will have much to ponder ahead of a possible World Cup quarter-final showdown against hosts Japan. JON CARDINELLI in Kobe reports.
The Boks beat Japan 41-7 in a warm-up game staged two weeks before the World Cup. After that victory, coach Rassie Erasmus commended Japan and surprised a lot of people when he spoke about the possibility of meeting the hosts in the World Cup quarter-finals.
The All Blacks beat the Boks while Ireland manhandled Scotland on the opening weekend of the tournament. At that stage, Ireland were the favourites to top Pool A and play the runners-up of Pool B – the Boks – in the first round of the playoffs.
Japan’s stunning win against Ireland in Shizuoka, however, made a mockery of most pre-tournament predictions. Erasmus was one of the few who backed Japan to score a big upset win.
The excitement around the Brave Blossoms continues to grow over here in Japan. Thousands of people visited the fanzone in Kobe on Saturday night to watch Japan beat Samoa. Images of the players were splashed across the pages of the local newspapers the following morning.
Japan is on the brink of a first-ever World Cup quarter-final appearance. If they beat Scotland next Sunday, we may well see them hosting the Boks in a do-or-die game.
Speaking from the Bok camp in Kobe, assistant coach Jacques Nienaber admitted that the team has one eye on all the Pool A clashes and playoff permutations. The Boks played Japan recently, and this may count in their favour ahead of a possible meeting with the hosts in a quarter-final.
‘We were quite complimentary about them after we played them a month ago. Maybe most people thought that we were just talking them up,’ Nienaber said.
‘We know a lot of their coaches and players. They’re very fit, and have a good management team and plan. They’re a quality side.’
Nienaber said that most preparations for the quarter-final clash will only begin once the Boks’ opponents are confirmed. South Africa will play Canada on Tuesday, and then remain in Kobe for the remainder of the week.
‘We didn’t see much of that Japan-Ireland game because we were busy warming up for the Namibia game in Toyota. I’ve seen bits of it but haven’t looked at it with an analytical eye yet.
‘It’s been full on, with us playing Italy and Canada within the space of a few days. After Tuesday, we will have a bit of a break ahead of the playoffs.
‘There are multiple scenarios. Japan, Scotland and Ireland are all in the mix. So yes, we will have a lot of homework to do.’
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