Japan sensation Kenki Fukuoka has highlighted the threat of opposite number Cheslin Kolbe ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against South Africa on Sunday. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
The Boks have been generous with their praise of the Japan backline this past week.
Head coach Rassie Erasmus and defence specialist Jacques Nienaber have highlighted the danger of the Brave Blossoms’ high-tempo approach. Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick recently described Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima as a a couple of Ferrarris with the potential to leave opponents for dead in the wider channels.
On Wednesday, Kolbe spoke about his previous experience of the wings, having competed against Fukuoka at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and against Matsushima when the South African-born player was still with the Sharks.
While the forward battle will shape the contest at the Tokyo Stadium, there’s a chance that Kolbe or one of the Japanese wings will snatch a match-winning try late in the game.
‘I wasn’t aware of Cheslin when we met at the Olympics a few years ago,’ Fukuoka said when he asked about the Bok wing in Tokyo on Friday. ‘What I did know was that the South African [Sevens] team is very fast. I found out soon that he is also very fast.
‘He and I are among the smaller players at this World Cup,’ the Japan wing continued. ‘We are showing how smaller players can compete against bigger opponents and how we can make important contributions to our respective teams at the elite level.
‘It’s been a pleasure to watch him do what he does best. I’m looking forward to competing against him this Sunday.’
Fukuoka went on to highlight the collective strength of this Japan side and the belief that’s been built up over the course of the World Cup pool phase. Japan won all four of their games to top Pool A and set up a quarter-final showdown with South Africa.
‘We’ve come a long way together,’ Fukuoka said.
‘A lot has changed since the win against South Africa in 2015. We failed to progress to the knockout stage at that tournament. This time round, we have gained a lot of confidence from the recent wins and are aware of the achievement of qualifying for the playoffs.
‘We won’t want for motivation on Sunday. The cheers from the local Japanese fans gives us strength and courage. We want to make another big mark in the quarter-final.’
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