Rassie Erasmus says there is no chance that the Springboks will underestimate Japan again ahead of their final World Cup warm-up in Kumagaya on Friday.
The Springboks have named a full-strength lineup captained by fit-again skipper Siya Kolisi as they look to finish their preparations for the World Cup on a high against the tournament hosts.
However, the debacle at the 2015 World Cup in Brighton when they infamously slumped to a 34-32 loss against the same opponents will still be in the Boks’ minds.
Speaking after naming his team on Tuesday, Erasmus said they will give their opponents the respect they deserve.
‘I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan,” said Erasmus. ‘Perhaps we made the mistake of complacency against them in the past, but we’ve been hammering the message all week that we should never do that again against Japan.
‘They’re a smart team of great athletes, playing at home, having won a title in the past month and now desperate to prove something. This Test is as big a challenge as any we’ve had this season.’
Japan, coached by former Sunwolves and Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, are coming into the match in excellent form having won against Fiji, the USA and Tonga to claim the Pacific Rugby Championship.
The hosts also beat Italy at home a year ago and led England at half time at Twickenham in November 2018, during a sequence of six victories in nine matches since the start of that year. With that they climbed the rankings to equal their highest-ever position of ninth.
The current Springbok squad has nine survivors of that match-day 23 – Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kolisi, Francois Louw, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane – with De Jager the only one not reappearing on Friday.
Erasmus said the current squad has discussed the reasons for the 2015 loss.
‘That kind of result can easily happen again if we don’t learn from the past,’ he said. ‘Our players who were there have held up their hand and said they totally underestimated Japan. If our mindset isn’t right and we’re looking beyond this game, then we’ll play right into Japan’s hands.
‘This is a Springbok Test match against a team ranked in the world’s top ten, in their own backyard, and we’ve got to be full on if we want to win – anything less and we’ll be in trouble.’
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