Why the Springboks may feel stuck in an Earth Wind and Fire classic

Thomas du Toit and Damian de Allende during the South African national rugby team training session at Fuchu Asahi Football Park on October 15, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
Thomas du Toit and Damian de Allende during the South African national rugby team training session at Fuchu Asahi Football Park on October 15, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

“Do you remember…?” and in the case of the Springboks it is not the 21st but the sixth of September.

The Boks might feel as if they are trapped in an enduring Earth Wind and Fire smash hit of the 1970s because the line of enquiry this week has frankly‚ felt like a stuck record.

They play Japan in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final here on Sunday and all too often this week they’ve been asked about the warm-up match they played against the host nation in the first week of September.

On Wednesday it was Cheslin Kolbe’s turn to dig into the recent archives‚ or discography.

“Playing them in September we knew there was a bit of pressure because of what happened in the previous RWC.

"We knew we had a plan that we wanted to focus on. We got the victory in that match.

“If you look at Japan they definitely evolved and improved their game in different departments‚ especially in line speed and defence.

"There’s also a lot of attacking at the breakdown. They’ve definitely worked on a few things.

"They are a better team than they were in September‚” said Kolbe.

There is no doubt that Japan is hardly recognisable from the team that lost 41-7 to the Springboks in Saitama.

It is Japan’s stated intention to produce a match where the ball remains in play for a lung busting 50 minutes.

Their high tempo‚ high energy and intensity game has won a lot of admirers. It resonates with Kolbe‚ who plays with a similar sense of adventure.

“Japan is definitely playing an exciting brand of rugby. They are giving the ball a lot of air. They stretch your defence structures. It is definitely the style I love to play as well.

"But as a team we have our own structures and own plans that we want to implement. We must make sure we cut down their options‚” said Kolbe.

In Japan left wing Kenki Fukuoka‚ Kolbe will have a worthy adversary on Sunday. Fukuoka has scored four tries in this competition‚ while fellow wing Kotaro Matsushima is the joint leading scorer with five.

“He is a very good player‚ he has a lot of speed and he is very powerful and explosive‚” Kolbe said about Fukuoka.

“I played against him in the Rio Olympics (2016). He is a really good all round player.

"I think on Sunday it will be about the team that wants it the most. It’s about the team that is prepared to leave everything out on the field.”

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