Rassie Erasmus says the Springboks intentionally played with less possession against Japan to prepare for their World Cup opener against the All Blacks.
The Boks completed their warm-up fixtures on a successful note with a 41-7 win over hosts Japan in Saitama last Friday. While they only played with 37% of the possession, the Springboks still managed to take their opportunities and scored six tries, with wing Makazole Mapimpi grabbing a hat-trick.
It was noticable that the Springboks put boot to ball throughout the match, looking to test the Japanese back three whenever possible. This not only caused the Boks having to cope without the ball for much of the match – especially in the second half when conditions started to take their toll – but also forced them into making more tackles than the home side, ending with 164 tackles to Japan’s 69.
Erasmus said that the Boks’ tactics were intentionally trialled to replicate the expected conditions of their first World Cup match against New Zealand. That will be a game where South Africa will be forced on to the defensive for long periods and will have to be accurate in their decision-making.
‘One of our first priorities was to adapt to the weather circumstances,’ Erasmus told the New Zealand Herald. ‘The humidity meant the ball was wet; after 25 minutes all the jerseys were wet and the arms were wet. We are used to this sort of thing from games in Durban in February, so we treated it like it was a wet-weather game.
‘It paid off a bit but there were times when Japan almost got away and scored tries. So, I would say that there were stages we were really effective in doing it, but also Japan could have capitalised on opportunities at other stages and then it could have been a different game.
‘Playing without the ball was intentional. Just for this first game to see how it goes. Because we never know what [weather conditions] will be like against New Zealand.
‘Of our six tries, four came from contestable kicks. So it was a source of possession for us. It won’t be as big a source of possession against New Zealand, we know that, but this Japan game was one we had to win as they went into the game with a 100% record against us. We thought we’d take them out of their comfort zone.’
Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets