“It’s a style I love to play as well.” Those were Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe’s words when asked about their quarter-final opposition’s exciting brand of rugby… not like he needs to convince anybody.
The Boks are gearing up for their last-eight battle against the hosts, one that can only be a good one considering how well the Brave Blossoms have done in the pool stages.
It’s their attacking game that has been their biggest weapon, and Kolbe, who can give a master class or two himself on balling with flair, says sticking to their strengths – regardless of how much he loves to let his feet and the ball do the work – will be important.
“Japan are playing exciting rugby. They are giving the ball a lot of air, and want to stretch your defensive structures,” he said.
“But we have our own structures and plan we want to implement, especially this weekend, and cut down their options to force them into some structure.”
The Boks’ 41-7 thumping of Japan in their final World Cup warm-up would have done a lot to lessen the talks of the Brighton Miracle of 2015, and when asked about the two-point defeat, Kolbe said: “If you compare rugby in 2015 and 2019, it has definitely gone a different way – it’s not the same style of rugby that’s being played. Teams are more technical.
“Knowing we had the 2015 loss to Japan – I wouldn’t say it’s stuck in our head, but we know it happened. But it’s four years later and a new opportunity for us.”
On the friendly in Kumagaya, Kolbe added: “Playing them in September, we knew there was a bit of pressure because of what happened in 2015. But we knew we had a plan.
“We got the victory in that match, but if you look at Japan at the World Cup, they have evolved and improved their game in different departments – especially line-speed in defence, and a lot of attacking at the breakdowns.
“They have definitely worked on a few things.”
While there have been some polarising decisions and comments made during this World Cup, Japan coach Jamie Joseph’s opinion about his wingers cannot be questioned.
The New Zealander referred to his try-scoring wingers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima as Ferraris, descriptions well deserved considering the blistering tries they’ve scored.
On facing Fukuoka, whom he played against during the 2016 Olympics with the Blitzboks in Rio, Kolbe said: “He is a very good player. He’s got a lot of speed, is really powerful and explosive.”
@WynonaLouw Cape Times