For the Springboks to achieve their goals in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup opener against Japan in Brighton, they will need to control the tempo of the game and impose their will on the opposition.
While most expect an easy walkover for the Springboks to open their campaign at the showpiece tournament, there is a small amount of concern that the number of Boks returning from injury could well see them struggle more than they should rather than make a statement in their first game out.
The Japanese team have improved from their previous Rugby World Cup efforts, mainly due to the foreign influx in their game and the coaching of Eddie Jones, but they should still not be expected to pose a challenge to the Boks as the two sides meet at the home of Brighton and Hove Albion.
On Monday, Bok defensive coach John McFarland played up the threat, saying the key element for the Green and Gold was simply how they would play their own game, and not so much about how the opposition would disrupt them. The Boks firmly believe that if they control their own game they will be more than halfway to victory.
“It is up to us to control the tempo of the game,” McFarland said.
“They’ve certainly got some players with Super Rugby experience and they are a well-coached team. They’re coached by a guy who has won a World Cup and who has coached a team to a World Cup final.
“They know what they’re about, they’re well organised and we’re expecting a quick game. They will try and take us off the pace of our game, so we must be ready for anything.”
McFarland said he was pleasantly surprised by the improvement in his area of defence, which he puts down to the much better condition the Boks are in at the moment.
“We’ve worked very hard over the period until now and you can see all the work in terms of conditioning is paying off. If we look at our in-game stats during the Castle Lager Rugby Championship we could see that players are getting up off the floor quicker.
“I’m pleased where we are now, our conditioning is better, but the test is really on Saturday.
“All those second efforts are down to conditioning. If you are in good shape you get up better, you feel better and are confident. Suddenly against Argentina away from home we were very good with that.”
McFarland said the Boks knew a lot about how Japan would play, not only through their Japanese-based players in Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger but also through a number of games that were shown live on television.
“We have watched a lot of them over the last year, and seen them inside and out. They keep the ball well, and there are games where they make errors on that, turn over the ball and have given away points.
“They pushed the Maori All Blacks close and they’ve won seven out of 10 this year. They are a good well-organised side.”
The Boks will also play Scotland, Samoa and the USA in their remaining pool fixtures.