Japan hoping for Springbok deja vu

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s “unique” brand of high-tempo attacking rugby will face the acid test when it runs up against the blitz defence of a tough South Africa side in today’s World Cup quarter-final.

The World Cup hosts have already surpassed expectations by topping Pool A, notching up wins over Six Nations giants Ireland and Scotland, as well as Samoa and Russia.

Now the Japanese public want more, and are easily reminded of the Brave Blossoms’ pool victory over the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup, one of the sport’s biggest ever upsets.

“No, we won’t be drawing on that at all,” was Japan coach Jamie Joseph’s blunt assessment when asked whether that win four years ago, when just four of today’s side started, was a motivating factor for the match at Tokyo Stadium. “In fact, I’ve been trying to forget about it for the last four years. Everyone talked about it, but we’re a different team, different players.”

Current England coach Eddie Jones was in charge of Japan at the last World Cup before former All Black Joseph took over. He has instilled a huge self-belief and a simple game plan based around ball retention, exploiting the short side and explosive, running rugby.

It is a pleasure to behold, and Japan’s four tries in their final pool victory over Scotland came in a purple patch that represented the most entertaining segment of rugby played so far at the tournament.

The performance was widely praised and drew many admirers, with former England scrum-half Matt Dawson saying Japan were playing a “unique” brand of rugby.

Japan flanker Michael Leitch and lock Luke Thompson attend the captain’s run training session at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP