The Springboks will need to adjust their approach when they meet Canada under the roof at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, writes JON CARDINELLI in Kobe.
The conditions have been a major talking point since the Boks arrived in Japan at the beginning of September.
‘I’ve never experienced heat and humidity like this, not even when I was with the Sharks in Durban,’ Frans Steyn said after the Boks beat Namibia on a balmy evening in Toyota.
Playing under the roof at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, however, is believed to be another challenge altogether. The humidity under the roof is on another level and handling can be very difficult in the latter stages of the game.
‘The humidity will increase with the roof closed and we will have to adjust,’ No 8 Francois Louw said on Monday.
‘It comes down to ball security. We’ve placed an emphasis on the breakdown and providing a good platform for our halfbacks.’
Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick highlighted the challenge facing the South Africans.
‘It’s going to be very humid in there on Tuesday and that can make it tough to get the ball through the hands,’ he said.‘We’ve prepared for that challenge, though, and are looking forward to ticking a few more boxes before the playoffs.’
The Boks piled on the tries in the big wins against Namibia and Italy. They’re still hurting after a misfiring attacking performance against the All Blacks two weeks ago, though, and are determined to sharpen their attack ahead of the knockout phase.
‘We didn’t convert our opportunities against the All Blacks,’ Stick said. ‘That was a big work-on as we moved into the games against Namibia and Italy.
‘A lot of people may have expected us to play more running rugby in those matches. But we are mindful of what happened against the All Blacks. ‘We have to stick to the process to develop a game plan that will be effective in the playoffs. We won’t take Canada lightly, but we are mindful of the bigger picture.’
Japan may finish top of Pool A and host the Boks – the likely runners-up in Pool B – in the quarter-finals. Stick said that Japan should not be underestimated, even though they have never featured in a World Cup playoff before.
‘We’re focused on getting through the group stage at present. We’re not sure who we will play in the next round. It may be Ireland or Scotland or Japan.
‘It’s great to see Japan, as a host nation, doing so well. When you travel around the country you can really feel the vibe and excitement.
‘We might call teams like Japan a smaller nation, but they’re showing everyone that you can’t afford to underestimate a single opponent at this World Cup. If you don’t rock up physically and mentally they will punish you.
‘We will have a 10-day turnaround between the Canada game and the quarter-finals, so there should be enough time to prepare for that challenge.’
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