South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe is hoping his experience against Kotaro Matsushima and Kenki Fukuoka will hold him in good stead when the Springboks play Japan in Tokyo on Sunday in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.
Kolbe faced Matsushima back in 2012 in South Africa’s domestic cup competition while the latter was still part of the Sharks set-up and came up against Fukuoka at the 2016 Rio Olympics’ sevens bronze medal match.
“Both Japan wingers are playing good rugby,” Kolbe said Wednesday at the team hotel.
“Fukuoka has a lot of speed, is powerful and explosive. He is a good all-around player. I played against Matsushima in the Currie Cup and know what type of player he is. He likes to run with the ball and have freedom. It’s going to be a good challenge.”
Kolbe, like Fukuoka and Matsushima, is proving there is still a role for small men in rugby, and he reminded the media that “dynamite comes in small packages.”
Matsushima has scored five tries to date, Fukuoka has touched down four times, while Kolbe’s speed and dynamic footwork has lit up the tournament.
The Springboks flyer says Sunday’s game will be very different from the two nations’ September warmup game in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, won 41-7 by South Africa.
“We had a plan that we were focused on and implemented,” Kolbe said. “But Japan through the pool stages have evolved and improved, especially their line speed in defense and in attacking the breakdown. They are much better than in September.”
Like Kolbe, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies said the Springboks needed to focus on themselves, particularly as the home crowd would make communication on the field difficult.
“Japan play a fast brand of rugby and it’s important we don’t lose our cool and stick to what we do best, control things and nullify what they do best,” he said.
With the two teams going into the game having won one test each in their previous encounters, Kolbe is expecting a tight game.
“What will happen on Sunday is it will be down to the team and player that wants it the most, whoever is most desperate and willing to leave everything on the field.”
Uruguay players wreak havoc
Two players from the Uruguay team tackled a staff member and damaged property at a nightclub in Kumamoto during a drinking session following their final game of the Rugby World Cup, police said Wednesday.
The police are investigating the alleged assault and questioned the players before they left Japan with the rest of the team. Meanwhile, the club is considering filing a criminal complaint.
A group of players and others linked to the team visited the club called Bacon Egg in the early hours of Monday following their 35-13 loss to Wales at Kumamoto Stadium, according to the club and other sources.
One player tackled a male staffer standing by the entrance, who was later diagnosed with a minor back injury. Security camera footage showed the man being shoved about two meters back, the sources said.
Several players engaged in antisocial behavior, including spilling drinks on DJ equipment, punching walls and mirrors, and tearing apart a stuffed bear, said the sources. There were over 200 customers at the club when the police were called. It has been closed since the incident and expects to reopen Thursday.
A senior official from the tournament organizing committee has visited and apologized to its operator. The two players have expressed remorse for their acts, according to the committee. The Uruguay team won one game and lost three at the tournament, finishing last their group and not reaching the quarterfinals.
“Even if it happened in their private time, their behavior is regrettable. As the organizing committee of the host country, we hope to address it in good faith,” a committee official said.