Japan are better than four years ago‚ warns Springboks captain Siya Kolisi

05 September 2019 - 11:24 By Craig Ray
Springboks captain Siya Kolisi will start his first match in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Japan on Friday September 6 2019.
Springboks captain Siya Kolisi will start his first match in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Japan on Friday September 6 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Ross Setford/File Photo

Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi warned that Japan are a much better team now than the one that famously beat South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup‚ on the eve of the second-ever meeting between the sides.

Speaking to dozens of reporters at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium after massive local interest in the ‘rematch’ four years on from Brighton‚ Kolisi said the Brave Blossoms had the Boks’ attention.

“It was tough losing that game and it did make an impact as you have seen in the interest in this game‚” said Kolisi‚ one of eight survivors of that 34-32 defeat who will reappear on Friday.

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“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.”

There will be no complacency this time around from the Boks after they learned such a hard lesson in 2015.

Japan’s desire to keep a high tempo and use their speed an agility to move the Boks around is something that the visitors are hoping to counter by keeping their gameplan simple and eliminating errors leading to turnovers.

Japan assistant coach Tony Brown‚ who played for the Sharks in the twilight of his career‚ knows that his team will always be challenged in terms of size and therefore has had to find other ways to upsetting opponents.

“All of our opponents at the World Cup are going to be bigger than us so our point of difference of how we want to play the game is going to be based around speed and how fast we can play the game‚” said Brown.

“We think we have a style of game that can put South Africa under pressure.

“If we can do that ... who knows? Hopefully a repeat of four years ago.”

Kolisi will make his first start for the Springboks this year after a knee injury sustained in the latter part of Super Rugby left him in a race to be fit for the World Cup.

“Rather than coming back into a team that was losing all the time‚ I’m coming back into a team that was winning‚ which was extra pressure‚” Kolisi said.

The Boks have won three and drawn one Test this year.

“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.

“And 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.”