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Domkop rugby from Springboks won’t cut it against Japan

Domkop rugby from Springboks won’t cut it against Japan

16 October 2019, by: SIBUSISO MJIKELISO

Domkop rugby from Springboks won’t cut it against Japan

LAST year, ahead of the game against the All Blacks in New Zealand, when the spanking new coach genuinely thought, if the Springboks lost, he would get fired, the real Rassie Erasmus came to the fore.

He said as much in his own words and feared as much, even though he had inked an unprecedented six-year contract with SA Rugby after replacing Allister Coetzee in the hot seat.

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But ignominious defeats to Argentina in Mendoza and Australia in back-to-back Rugby Champion matches, exactly a year before the Rugby World Cup in Japan began, sobered him up from the intoxicating comfort of his contract.

And so, with nothing to lose, he set the Boks up to have a right go at New Zealand in Wellington, playing the kind of game that blew England to ashes in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein a few months prior.

The result was the most scintillating Bok rugby display in a decade, complete with over-the-try-line Aphiwe Dyantyi side-steps and Cheslin Kolbe’s “I don’t care about my wellbeing” tackles on Rieko Ioane and the rest of the giants in black.

Something of this ilk, if not more, will be required to beat Japan in Tokyo on Sunday. Japan, in topping Pool A, beating Six Nations institutions Ireland and Scotland in the process, proved that the size of the Springboks’ spoon won’t necessarily stir their cup.

It will take smart, savvy, sometimes suave and definitely speed to beat Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms.

The Boks have had a two-week turnaround time, while Japan will have a week to come down from their dizzying 28-21 win over Scotland last Sunday. It won’t matter; such is the brevity of the World Cup. Ask Scotland.

All that time would have given Erasmus room to think. He would have sat in his hotel room, probably flanked by his affable technical analyst Lyndsay Weyers and watched reams and reams of video footage of the Japanese.

What his eyes would have told him is that the Boks will face a team no longer afraid of size and the brute strength that accompanies the likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende.

Joseph said as much as after their victory over the Scots.

“We always know that when we play Tier One teams, the first area they come for is the set-piece They will target the scrum and they will target our lineout, particularly our maul defence and they will try and squeeze us and put pressure there first.

“In the last four games we’ve done OK there and that’s allowed us to play the way we wanna play rugby,” he said.

The jig is up.

If the Bok coach is as shrewd as he displayed in orchestrating victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand and a come-from-behind draw the following year, then Japan should be swept aside by a green tide.

The breezy wins over Italy, Namibia and Canada in their Pool B games after the defeat to the All Blacks in Yokohama on September 21 only proved to confirm what many South Africans knew: the Springboks can play a complete attacking game.

Those games showed De Allende use the full might of his bullet pass and Lukhanyo Am’s eye for the gap in the wide channels. Though not blessed with pace, Am’s awareness and reading of the game is somewhere close to what the All Blacks had in Ma’a Nonu in 2011 and 2015, sans the strandy dreadlocks and back-rowers build, of course.

These players have to come to the fore against Japan. If De Allende and Am draw Japanese defenders and manage to offload in contact, you can bet your 13th cheque that Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi will rip past Kotaro Matshushima and Kenki Fukuoka like superbikes to street laps.

But if the Boks do the opposite and restore factory settings – thereby using the Domkop default approach that Bok rugby used to their detriment in Brighton in 2015 – thinking they can play like bowling balls to bowling pins, they are in for another nasty surprise.

Japan will not stand there and watch the Boks play. Joseph, who has been ably assisted mad scientist Tony Brown, gave a massive hint that they ought to heed. 

“The word attack is often reflected in the way when they have the ball but we are an attacking team on defence as well,” he said.

“Quite often I’m blurred about where the tries came from but what I remember is an attacking defence line that creates opportunities and, through that, creates tries.”

What Joseph didn’t say was that they are waiting for the collisions, patiently, with the kind of miserly mentality that will get them quick turnovers and the ball in Matshushima’s hands in a trice. From there, it will be tickets and ja ne (see ya) to Springbok championship hopes.

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