Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says he is expecting Japan to play a high-tempo game when they face the World Cup hosts in their final warm-up on Friday.
The Springboks front the team that arguably provided them with their biggest World Cup humiliation four years ago in Brighton. A seemingly fitter Japan side under the coaching of Eddie Jones outlasted the Boks to claim a 34-32 win, which still ranks among the biggest sporting upsets.
Kolisi, who came off the bench in the second half of that Test, told the media in Japan that they will have to be prepared for anything against the unpredictable hosts.
‘It was tough losing that game and it did make an impact as you have seen in the interest in this game,’ Kolisi said. ‘It did make us stronger as a team, but it really put Japan on the rugby map. They have done good things since then.
‘They’re much fitter and stronger and they know their systems and the game they want to play and it’s going to be a whole new challenge for us. They’re very strong at the breakdown, they have a strong kicking game – they have a good all-round game and they can turn up the heat at any time of the game and up the tempo. They will want to keep the ball in hand and aim for a long ball-in-play time. We have to be prepared for anything.
‘We will stick to what we know best and to our strengths. They will obviously have prepared for us – but in the same way we have prepared for them. We will have to make sure we are on our toes at all times.’
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 5, 2019
Kolisi has endured a stop-start year so far hampered by a knee injury, but proved his fitness in the World Cup farewell match against Argentina in Pretoria last month.
The Bok skipper said while he was under pressure to play in a team that has built a winning mentality under Rassie Erasmus, he appreciated being able to stay involved with the squad despite not being fully fit.
‘Rather than coming back into a team that was losing all the time, I was coming back into a team that was winning, which was extra pressure,’ Kolisi said. ‘It was tough watching from the sidelines but the great thing was that I was involved the whole time. The coach made sure that I was in all the meetings and I ran the water in one game, which was completely amazing and different; it’s as involved as you can be in a Test match without actually playing.
‘I could see how hard the guys were working. I have to say, this is a special group and what makes them so special is that they work so hard for one another. All I was banking on was that as soon as my injury was healed I was fit and ready to take my place. The support I have had from my teammates has been amazing. That’s one thing I enjoy about this team – I’m just grateful to be part of it.’
The Springboks begin their World Cup campaign against the All Blacks on 21 September.