‘Samoa clash like a final’

Schalk Burger says the Springboks have to take the fight to Samoa in a must-win clash at Villa Park this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Birmingham.

The Boks have arrived in Birmingham looking worse for wear. Burger cut a beaten figure on Sunday evening, with several lacerations and bruises marking his face.

However, the biggest injury sustained this past weekend was the one to the Boks’ psyche. South Africa lost 34-32 to Japan in their first pool match on Saturday. Whether they go on to win this World Cup or not – and at the moment, the latter seems more likely – nobody will forget about the day Japan outclassed the Boks to record the biggest upset in the tournament's history.

The public reaction to the loss has been fierce. Those who aren’t angry with the Boks, consider them a joke. Dozens of memes were doing the rounds on social media on Sunday, memes that don’t paint the South African side in a complimentary light.

‘My mates sent me the one featuring Shinya Makabe, the captain of my club [Suntory Sungoliath] in Japan,’ revealed Burger. ‘The caption reads: In the week I eat sushi, on the weekend I eat Springbok’.

Burger allowed himself a wry smile, but then said that the Boks have to redeem themselves in the next game against Samoa.

‘It wasn’t good enough this past Saturday. Obviously, the result has forced us to change our World Cup plans. That next game against Samoa is now almost like a final.

‘That loss to Japan was tough. But now is not the time to go into our shells. We need to stand up against Samoa and take this tournament by the scruff of the neck. ‘

Japan coach Eddie Jones said that South Africa underestimated the Brave Blossoms, and that they may have already been looking ahead to bigger clashes against Samoa and Scotland. Burger admitted that this was true.

‘Sometimes you are so focused on looking at your own game, and what you want to get right, that you don’t worry too much about the opposition,’ he said. ‘Japan played in their comfort zone for 80 minutes, and we didn’t manage to force them out of it. Our poor discipline also aided their cause. We conceded easy penalties and then territory. We weren’t patient enough on defence, and it cost us.

‘The interpretation at the breakdown seems to be different at this World Cup,’ Burger continued. ‘The ref is very strict on the defender not rolling away. You can’t take up the space. We have to keep that in mind going forward, because it’s going to be another big breakdown battle against Samoa on Saturday.'

Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli