Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk says that good defence, kicking and discipline will shape the World Cup quarter-final next week. JON CARDINELLI in Kobe reports.
Typhoon Hagibis is expected to hit the main Japanese island of Honshu later on Saturday night. Matches in Tokyo and Toyota have already been cancelled, and even here in Kobe – some 500km west of the capital – the weather has taken a turn for the worse.
The Boks secured their spot in the playoffs when they beat Canada on Tuesday. Since then, they’ve been waiting to see who they will meet in the playoffs. If the Japan-Scotland clash on Sunday is cancelled due to the ‘super typhoon’, the Brave Blossoms will advance and host the Boks in the quarter-finals.
‘We won’t change a lot in terms of how we approach a side,’ De Klerk said from the Boks’ base in Kobe. The team will move to Tokyo on Monday.
‘Each team will have its own weaknesses that we will try and expose. We’ll look at that on Sunday night or on Monday morning when we have a clear idea about who we are facing.
‘Our DNA won’t change, though. A contestable game is key. If you look at how the top teams play, they rely on the kicking game.
‘Even though Japan say they want to run the ball they often go to the boot. We played them earlier this year, so we also know what to expect.’
There is still a chance that the Boks will meet Ireland or Scotland in the quarter-final in Tokyo next Sunday. Head coach Rassie Erasmus and defence guru Jacques Nienaber were part of the Munster management team between 2016 and 2017, and have a good understanding of the Irish players. Another two members of the Bok coaching team – head of athletic performance Aled Walters and attack consultant Felix Jones – have previously worked in the Irish system.
As De Klerk pointed out, the Boks will know what to expect should they meet Joe Schmidt’s charges in the playoffs.
‘We have watched most of the games so we’ve got a good idea about how most of the teams are playing, especially Ireland,’ he said. ‘Almost our whole coaching staff has been in Ireland, so it’s great to have some inside info there.
‘It’s going to come down to defence and kicking in the quarters,’ he added. ‘The other decisive aspect will be discipline. The team that keeps its cool and doesn’t concede cards is going to improve its chances of winning.’
Prop Frans Malherbe said that the mindset of the players has not changed since the loss to the All Blacks on the opening weekend of the tournament. The South Africans feel that they are in the right mental space for the do-or-die fixture next week.
‘It’s not like we’re suddenly in a different situation,’ Malherbe said. ‘We realise that the quarter-final will require a step up, but we’ve been in this knockout space for the past few weeks.
‘After the New Zealand game, we realised that every game was a knockout game. If we lost one more we would have gone home.
‘We will wait and see what happens this weekend in terms of the other matches. We can’t prepare for anyone specific yet. Our preparation at the moment is focused on ourselves.’
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