BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – When Japan takes on South Africa on Saturday at Brighton Community Stadium in the opening game of Pool B of the Rugby World Cup, it will be the first time the two countries have met in a test match.
But the Springboks will know plenty about the Japan side, what with three of the 23-man match-day squad currently plying their trade in the Top League and a number of others on the 31-man tournament squad set to join Japanese sides later in the year.
“Over the last two weeks, every now and then, the coach (Heyneke Meyer) has come and asked for a little bit of input,” Suntory Sungoliath scrumhalf Fourie Du Preez told Reuters at the Springbok training camp in Eastbourne.
Du Preez joined Suntory after being impressed by the work of Eddie Jones, who was technical director with the Springboks when they won the World Cup in 2007.
“Eddie is one of the best technical coaches in the world. He will have prepared the Japanese team thoroughly,” Du Preez told Reuters. “I expect he’ll throw in a few surprises but we’ll have to adapt.”
Du Preez was joined at Suntory last year by another RWC winner in Schalk Burger, who has warned his teammates to be aware of Japan’s defense.
“The (Brave Blossoms) are adept at the chop tackle below the knees,” Burger said. “That’s something we’re not too familiar with and they play the game at a very high tempo. We’ll have to get used to the speed. We won’t underestimate them. They’re a tough bunch of competitors and Eddie Jones is one of the best coaches in the world.”
With JP Pietersen sure to have provided an insight into players such as Fumiaki Tanaka and Ryu Koliniasi Holani, who he plays alongside at Panasonic Wild Knights, Meyer will know all there is to know about an opponent that until now South Africa has never played.
“We play against the big teams from the Southern and Northern Hemisphere quite often and with them it’s mostly a case of you know what to expect,” Meyer said.
“But Japan will pose a different threat. Our players who play in Japan have warned us to expect a very high-tempo game and good, low tackling to stop momentum. We know they represent a difficult challenge.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5