Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus on Tuesday named a full-strength side to play Japan, as the two-time champions bid to put down a World Cup marker and avenge the biggest upset in the game’s history.
Captain Siya Kolisi comes back onto the side after fully recovering from a knee injury — the only change from the 23 selected for the 16-16 draw in New Zealand in July that set South Africa on tis way to winning their first Rugby Championship.
Western Stormers flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit wins his 50th cap and there is also a starting berth for lock Eben Etzebeth, who has been forced to deny allegations he pointed a gun at a homeless person last month.
“I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan,” Erasmus said.
“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,” added the coach. “This test is as big a challenge as any we’ve had this season.”
Friday’s clash at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama Prefecture marks the first time the two sides have met since the World Cup’s greatest upset in 2015, when the Brave Blossoms, coached by current England boss Eddie Jones, stunned the Springboks with a 34-32 win dubbed the “Miracle of Brighton.”
Nine of the 23-man match squad played in that game and Erasmus revealed that it had served as motivation in the run-up to Friday’s encounter.
“That kind of result can easily happen again if we don’t learn from the past,” the coach said.
With just over two weeks until the Rugby World Cup kicks off, South Africa is one of the favorites after winning the Rugby Championship for the first time with victories against Argentina and Australia and the draw in New Zealand.