The Springboks will play their Rugby World Cup warm-up game against the host country of the four-yearly showpiece in what is made out by many as revenge for what happened in 2015, when Japan caused a massive upset by beating South Africa in the opening round of the previous World Cup.
For Cheslin Kolbe, in those days still a stalwart for the Blitzboks, the Brighton result will have no bearing on Friday’s game.
“We’re a proud team representing a proud nation and we will go out to win on Friday, instead of fearing defeat,” said Kolbe.
“We shouldn’t have the mindset of trying to rectify what happened four years ago – what happened has happened.
“Our focus needs to be on Friday and to prepare as well as we can, so that we can play as well as we can. We must not play with fear but rather our natural game.”
Kolbe, who made his mark for the DHL Stormers in Vodacom Super Rugby before moving to France where he plays for Toulouse, was asked about the high heat and humidity in Japan, something most of the players haven’t experienced before.
“The humidity and playing with a wet ball is something we had to get used to, and it probably means we will have to simplify our game slightly by perhaps getting a bit closer to each other, but we are getting used to it,” said the fleet-footed winger.
“In the end, rugby is rugby and you just have to play.”
Duane Vermeulen agreed with Kolbe on the challenges facing the Boks on Friday. High temperatures are forecast for Kumagaya, with a maximum temperature of 34°C predicted during the day, easing to 24°C, but with humidity to make Durban proud.
“We will have to pay more attention to the small details and make sure everyone knows what to do with ball being wet and slippery,” said Vermeulen, who had a taste of Japanese rugby with the Kubota Spears club last year.
“It’s really great to be back in Japan.
“I experienced the conditions when I played here last year, but even if you know what the weather holds, it’s still difficult to get used to because the humidity effects everyone,” added the big Bok No 8.
Vermeulen said the Boks can expect a “well-oiled” Japanese side on Friday. Jamie Joseph’s team have won their last four games, which includes an unbeaten run in the Pacific Rugby Championship against Fiji, Tonga and the USA.
“We’ve done a bit of analysis and their pack will prove a handful – they are not shy to move around on the field, will be a big threat at the breakdowns and they have some good ball carriers as well – some of whom I know well,” he said.
“It will certainly not be an easy game. We have to ensure we prepare well and put in as much work as we can before the game on Friday.”
Friday’s match kicks off at 19h15 (12h15 SA time) at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium and will be screened live on SuperSport.