Japan plots another upset
Since January this year, coach Jamie Joseph has prepared Japan’s Brave Blossoms, stressing the need for different game plans for each opponent at the Rugby World Cup.
Before each match, the reserve players have been studying the tactics of their opponents’ scrum and then replicating that in practice, giving the starting pack ideal preparation.
This has resulted in Japan consistently challenging their much heavier opponents at scrum time, something they will need to do on Sunday when they take on South Africa in the quarter-finals.
“We make a firm strategy for a good scrum,” said scrum coach Shin Hasegawa on Wednesday. “(Hooker Takuya) Kitade and (back row Yoshitaka) Tokunaga are contributing and help us build our scrummaging strategy.
“(They make us realise) what we want to do and what sort of scrum we want to have. When they are able to do this it gives us immense confidence.
“When an opponent changes, our scrummaging changes and players change.
“When we feel that we need to educate each player (on various way of scrummaging), non-team members help us and give us comfort.”
Japan know they will need all their wits about them against the experience of two-time champions South Africa in Tokyo.
Boks plot for Japan match
South Africa’s assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says the Boks must find a way of stopping high speed Japanese ‘Ferraris’ if they are to prevail in the World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Japan have electrified the World Cup with their high-tempo game plan devised by coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown with wingers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima the chief beneficiaries of the speed at which the team are playing.
Matsushima is the tournament’s joint-top try scorer alongside Wales’ Josh Adams with five, while Fukuoka has crossed four times, twice against Scotland on Sunday, which helped the Brave Blossoms into their first quarter-final.
“Jamie Joseph compared their two wings (Fukuoka and Matsushima) to Ferrari cars, so we have to not allow those Ferraris to go to fifth gear or sixth gear,” Stick told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“We must make sure we are at our best with our defensive systems, because they are very skilful and have quick players.”
The fact South Africa could end the host nation’s run through the tournament had not been lost on the Springboks, especially with their news conferences heavily attended by local media.
“Playing against the host nation, we know they are going to be playing with a lot of passion, and the supporters are going to be behind them,” he said.
“We could hear the vibe at the stadium at Yokohama (for Japan against Scotland) when watching on TV. It’s going to be a tough challenge.”
South Africa will take on the Brave Blossoms in a quarter-final fixture that will inevitably evoke memories of Japan’s shock 34-32 victory over the Springboks in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup.
The Springboks coach, Rassie Erasmus said on Monday they had deliberately played a warm-up fixture against Japan ahead of the World Cup to try and dampen down any talk of the Brighton Miracle.
“In all honesty, the reason for that warm-up game was to erase the Brighton game, so that if we do play them in play-off games, that game hopefully doesn’t get mentioned again,” Erasmus told reporters ahead of their quarter-final on Sunday.
“It’s 1-1, and now we go into a quarter-final game against a really tough team. That (Brighton) game is in the past now.”
South Africa comfortably won that September 6 match, 41-7, but Erasmus acknowledged that their pre-tournament clash would have absolutely no bearing on how both sides played at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday.
Wales will take on France in the day’s other quarter-final. Defending champions New Zealand play against Ireland, while England take on Australia in Saturday’s quarter-final matches.
Typhoon Hagibis affects matches
Organisers of the Rugby World Cup deemed the risk from Typhoon Hagibis so high that they cancelled matches for the first time in the tournament’s 32-year history.
With the huge storm set to potentially devastate parts of Japan, Italy’s game against New Zealand in Toyota and England’s match against France in Yokohama on Saturday have been cancelled while Japan’s game against Scotland on Sunday is also in doubt.
The host nation would advance to the quarter-finals for the first time if their game in Yokohama is called off.
“While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday’s matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon,” said tournament director Alan Gilpin.
“We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first.”
Super Typhoon Hagibis is heading north toward Japan’s main island and could make landfall on Saturday, with torrential rain, high winds, storm surges and high waves expected.
As it stands, New Zealand will finish top of Pool B with South Africa going through as runners up.
South Africa vs Canada
South Africa celebrated their 500th test by storming into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a 66-7 victory over Canada on Tuesday.
The Springboks ran in six tries in the first half hour at Kobe Misaki Stadium, and Canada’s woes deepened a couple of minutes before halftime when replacement lock Josh Larsen was shown a red card for an illegal shoulder charge at a ruck.
The Boks had wrapped up the bonus-point they needed to secure their quarter-final berth by the 18th minute, with the best of those tries coming from Reinach as he picked up the ball at the base of a ruck inside the Bok 22 and scythed through a gap in the defence.
The Boks will find out who they face in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
Ticket target hit
Rugby World Cup organisers announced on Friday they had hit their target of selling 1.8 million tickets during the tournament.
Despite fears that crowds might be sparse in Japan, not a traditional rugby nation, fans have turned out in their droves, packing stadiums even for games not involving tournament heavyweights.
World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont said the tournament had “captured the hearts and minds of a nation and the global rugby family” and congratulated the Japanese organised for hitting their milestone.
There are now a “limited” number of tickets available on the official ticketing website, as sponsors and nations hand back some seats, organisers said.
“While tickets remain available, our advice to fans is to only buy through official channels to avoid being disappointed,” said Beaumont.
Ticket prices vary widely, from 100,000 yen ($936) for the best seats at the final, to 2,000 yen for the cheapest entry to the pool game between USA v Tonga.
South Africa trounce Italy
South Africa took a critical step towards qualification to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup when they crushed an Italy side reduced to 14 men for most of the second half 49-3 on Friday.
The win at Shizuoka Stadium took the Springboks above the Italians and New Zealand to the top of Pool B.
The ever-dangerous Cheslin Kolbe scored a try in each half and Bongi Mbonambi, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, RG Snyman and Malcolm Marx also crossed to comfortably earn the twice World Cup winners a bonus point.
Italy’s already tricky task became nigh on impossible when they had prop Andrea Lovotti sent off for dropping Duane Vermeulen on his head in the 43rd minute and their slim hopes of progressing now rest on beating the All Blacks for the first time.
“It was tough in the beginning, we knew what the challenge would be and that it would be a forward battle, so from the first scrum we wanted to give everything,” South Africa captain Siya Kolisi told reporters.
“We wanted to control the set-pieces, because they are very strong in that, and we did that today.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks but we have regrouped. Our coaches and management have been backing us by giving us as much information as possible and the way we responded today was really good.”
Italy had spoken before the game of how discipline would be crucial in deciding the outcome but they specatacularly failed to back their words with action as they battled to match the physicality of their fired-up opponents.
“We played against a very strong side,” Italian captain Sergio Parisse said. “We tried to come back in the second half but after the red card it was very difficult.
“It’s tough for us, but we must keep going forward. We are very disappointed, but we must try and finish well against the All Blacks (on Oct. 12).”
Spectator from space
South Africa’s clash against Italy will be watched by millions of fans across the planet, and one Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano who will be cheering on his team from space.
Parmitano will be watching Friday’s Pool B match from the International Space Station as it orbits some 400 km above the earth.
Italy are looking to upset the Springboks and reach the knockout stages for the first time.
Parmitano, who has been in space since July, had a message for the Italian team.
“You are a team and have to work all together to reach your goal, which is that of winning,” he said in a video posted by the European Space Agency and the Italian Rugby Federation.
It is not the first time Parmitano has broken new ground in space.
In August he became the first person to DJ in space when he played a set from the ISS for a club in Ibiza.
Boks make changes ahead of Italy clash
South Africa have made a few changes in their ranks ahead of the crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against Italy at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday.
The Boks made three changes to their first-choice pack as they brace for a muscular forward c