By Greg Stutchbury
TOKYO (Reuters) – As much as Rassie Erasmus and his Springboks coaching staff have tried to dampen predictions they will look to bludgeon Japan into submission in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday, that is exactly what Jamie Joseph expects them to do.
Joseph’s Brave Blossoms qualified for their first quarter-final after they won Pool A with a scintillating style of up-tempo rugby that included wins over Ireland and Scotland.
The Springboks, who were beaten by Japan at the 2015 tournament in the largest upset in World Cup history, however are not going to allow their opponents to play their brand of organised chaos at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday at 7:15 p.m. (1015 GMT).
“What is clear is what South Africa are going to do,” Joseph told reporters on Friday. “It’s not unique, but shows they are physically going to approach the match using their forwards and being very physical.
“(The) consistency of their game is around giving the opposition the ball and using their defence and big forwards to pressure (us)… and I guess that’s what we’ve been preparing for all the way.”
Erasmus and assistant coach Matt Proudfoot emphasised they would not be one-dimensional and South Africa do have a more attacking and balanced game than Ireland, who were beaten 19-12 by Japan in pool play.
The former Springboks loose forward, however, picked a pack built to grind down the Japanese forwards and then loaded his bench with six forward replacements.
Erasmus said that was to ensure that when they came on in the second half they would be fresh and able to close the gaps around the fringes, which Japan expertly exploited with clever running angles at pace against Scotland last Sunday.
More importantly, Erasmus wanted his side to dictate the pace of the game to ensure that Japan’s high tempo attack did not get into a rhythm.
“We will definitely try to play the game at our pace, and they will try to play the game at their pace,” Erasmus said.
“That will be a tactical battle, and it’s tough for me to say now who will be able to enforce that.
“But that will be a really big battle from the coaching staff, and the 15 players on the field.”
While Karne Hesketh’s try that sealed a 34-32 victory and the ‘Brighton Miracle’ four years ago has dominated the conversation in the lead-up, Joseph added that it had not factored into his side’s preparations.
“I’ve been trying to forget about it for the last four years,” Joseph said after he had made just one injury-enforced change to the side that sealed their quarter-final place with a 28-21 win over Scotland.
“Everyone talked about it (and) that was an amazing achievement at the last World Cup, (but) we’re working on our own things and we won’t be alluding to it.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christian Radnedge)