Lock Lood de Jager , who has forced his way into the starting line-up for Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against Japan in Tokyo, believes that the Springboks are far more prepared for this clash than they were in their 2015 tournament opener against the Brave Blossoms in Brighton.
That shocking 34-32 loss to Japan remains one of rugby’s biggest ever upsets.
De Jager, Tendai Mtawarira and Pieter-Steph du Toit are the only three Boks starting this weekend who also started that match.
Since then, Japanese rugby has continued to improve and they have knocked over Ireland, Scotland, Russia and Samoa at the 2019 showpiece already to secure top spot in Pool A and a first-ever World Cup quarter-final.
The Boks, who beat Japan 41-7 in their final warm-up match before the tournament got underway, will still enter Sunday’s contest as massive favourites, but the Japanese have risen to No 7 in the world rankings and will be backing themselves.
“We weren’t that well prepared in Brighton that day!” De Jager said.
“But they still beat us fair and square that day – we are not making any excuses. “But I think that warm-up game we played before the World Cup against really puts us in good stead for the quarter-final.”
De Jager also believes that the Boks will be more prepared this time around because so many of their players have had club stints in Japan over the last four years.
“It definitely helps,” he said.
“And playing them five weeks ago helps a lot. We’ve got a pretty good idea of what they will bring, so we will be well prepared.”
Still, the Boks cannot take anything for granted.
“Their rugby has improved immensely. They are still classified as a Tier 2 nation, but we don’t see them as that at all,” said De Jager.
“They went unbeaten in their pool and beat two Tier 1 nations in their pool.
“So we definitely view them as a Tier 1 nation and a big opponent. Really, the game is going to be challenging on Sunday. What makes them a good side is that they play to their strengths.
“They identify what their strengths are, and play really well to those strengths. For us, it’s about sticking to what makes us good, and what our strengths (are). It is going to be a good game and a great challenge on Sunday.”