Japan play South Africa: Redemption or shock repeat?
The Japan national rugby team (Brave Blossoms) take on South Africa (Springboks) tonight in Japan as both teams play their final warm-up game before the Rugby World Cup commences on September 2oth in Tokyo.
It will be the first time the two teams play each other since the epic RWC 2015 shock win for the Brave Blossoms in Brighton, dubbed the “The Brighton Miracle”.
The Japanese, as a result of the shock win, enter the game with a 100% win record against South Africa, the 34-32 victory in Brighton hailed as one of, if not the biggest, sports upsets.
The Springboks, keen to put ”that” game behind them, will focus on the match with the RWC 2019 in mind, but they are well aware the potential banana peel fixture, and another shock loss, could be devastating. Japan, much stronger now than four years ago, will face their toughest test of 2019, and a much-needed game before they host the RWC.
The Japanese would love to beat the Boks again, but will also be wary of the South Africans backlash, and a heavy defeat will do their morale no good two weeks out from their opening game of the Rugby World Cup.
Japan has already clinched the Pacific Rugby Cup this year, beating Fiji, the USA and Tonga. South Africa will be their toughest test by far, but the Brave Blossoms are not at the RWC to make up numbers, and beating top tier-1 teams is their goal.
Jamie Joseph said, “Russia (their opening RWC game) is a must-win game, South Africa is a must-perform game.” Japanese centre Timothy Lafaele. added, “They don’t have many weaknesses but we have found a few and will attack those.”
There is a South African connection to the Japanese team too. Pieter “Lappies” Labuschagne and Kotaro Matsushima are set to start and both were born in SA. Meanwhile, Wimpie van der Walt will watch from the sidelines but is in the Japanese RWC squad.
15 William Tupou, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Keita Inagaki
Substitutes: 16 Takuya Kitade, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ataata Moeakiola
South African rugby team
The Springboks will not be complacent, Brighton took care of that. Within the starting Bok RWC squad, there are 9 players who endured the defeat on 2015: Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard, Du Toit, Kolisi, Francois Louw, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane. Only De Jager will not play the game on Friday night.
The Boks won the Rugby Championship this year, beating the Wallabies and Argentina and drew with the All Blacks in NZ. In addition, they beat Argentina in another warm-up fixture. The results have catapulted SA to be a fan and pundits bet to win the Webb-Ellis trophy this year.
Coach Rassie Erasmus talking of the strong lineup said, “I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan…..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.”
“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.”
The game will also mark the 50th Test appearance for Pieter-Steph du Toit, SA Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2018.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel
Kumagaya Rugby Stadium
The 26 500 seater venue will host the game between Japan and SA as well as matches during the Rugby World Cup. However, at the team’s captains runs this week, the pitch showed signs of easy wear and tear. And that was without any scrums being played on the turf.
One interesting spanner in the works is the weather. Japan has experienced a late Summer and Tokyo is in direct line of a typhoon expected to make landfall on Sunday. As Rugby News Japan pointed out this week, during the RWC, if a knockout game is postponed due to weather it will be rescheduled.
However, pool games will be deemed a 0-0 draw if the game is called off. One such case of a cancelled game was between Hong Kong and Japan in HK in 2015, abandoned after 20 minutes due to a tropical storm.
The Brighton Miracle Movie
The Bok coach, Erasmus, quipped earlier this week they hope to avoid there being a movie sequel to the Brighton upset. The game has recently been turned into a film, The Brighton Miracle. The movie is due to be released before the RWC and tells how Japan pulled off one of the greatest rugby and sports upsets.
- Date: Friday, September 6th 2019
- Venue: Kumagaya Stadium, Saitama, Japan
- Kick-off: 19.15 (Japan time)