Springbok defence coach Jacques Nienaber says they will have to be wary of the movement of Japan’s wings during their quarter-final in Tokyo on Sunday.
The Japanese wings have been in top form throughout the tournament, with Kotaro Matsushima currently tied as top try-scorer with five tries in four games, closely followed by Kenki Fukuoka, who has scored four times. The duo worked incredibly well in tandem in Japan’s final pool match victory over Scotland, with Fukuoka setting Matsushima up with a brilliant offload on the left wing.
Nienaber identified that both Matsushima and Fukuoka tend to come off their respective wing positions to look for work, but added that the tactic may give the Springboks an opportunity on the counter-attack.
‘That is what [coaches] Tony [Brown] and Jamie [Joseph] did with their style of play,’ Nienaber said. ‘They play to their strengths, so they utilise their wings a lot. Their wings won’t typically stay on their respective sides. Their style will incorporate them into attack on both sides. Both their wings will work off their touchline. That is one of the threats they pose. Their style of attack incorporates their wings off their touchline.
‘But that poses a weakness as well. If you concede turnovers, both your wings can be caught on one side. So it does have its benefits, but like anything in rugby for every benefit there is also a counter.’
Nienaber likened Japan’s high-speed attack to the All Blacks, adding that he is looking forward to the challenge of devising a way to shut them out.
‘I think it [Japan’s attack] is almost similar [to New Zealand’s],’ Nienaber added. ‘Obviously, they are an in-form team. I think it will be a nice challenge for us, similar to what it was against New Zealand and all the other teams. They bring their own unique flavour as any team would. Italy brought something special to the table, New Zealand has their style of play and Ireland will bring their style of play.
‘Every team that you face will bring an certain X factor that you need to handle. Japan will certainly have a few X-factor things that they will bring, so we are looking forward to the challenge.’
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 13, 2019
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