By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will focus on playing their own brand of rugby against the physical game of South Africa in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final, the hosts’ attack coach Tony Brown said on Saturday.
The Springboks, under coach Rassie Erasmus, have returned to their traditional strengths at the set-piece and attempt to dominate opponents in the forwards.
Brown does not expect that to change on Sunday.
“I think there’s only one thing they’re going to do and that’s come and physically intimidate us,” Brown told reporters.
“A messy game is what they’re good at, they’re hard to stop when they get forward dominance. Our challenge is to play our game and try to entice them into playing some Japanese rugby.”
South Africa won the tactical battle by a wide margin when the two sides last met, the Springboks beating Japan 41-7 in a World Cup warm-up match last month.
But then the hosts notched up four wins from as many matches to win their pool and Brown said the warm-up against South Africa was no longer relevant.
“It was a warm-up game, both teams had different things in mind around preparing for the World Cup,” Brown said. “We definitely played a style of game that wasn’t around playing for South Africa, it was around playing for the World Cup.
“I don’t think the game is going to have any effect on what happens tomorrow (Sunday).”
One Japanese player who could be the target of the far larger Springboks is diminutive scrumhalf Yutaka Nagare, who stands at just 165 centimetres tall.
Nagare said he was ready for the challenge.
“They will come at us head-on,” said Nagare. “We know, as you can see from their line-up, they’ll look to make it a forward battle, play a physical game.
“We need to fight properly there of course but it’s important to play the ball smartly and make it a quick battle.”
“I think I’ll definitely lose if I go head-on,” he added. “I have to use my technique given I’m small … and I feel they’ll look to attack me in the next game, as well as near the try-line.
“But I’ve decided to go in determined to play with pride for this team. I’ll keep my mind strong. I’ll take them on carrying both mind and technique.”
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)