Japan, Japan, Japan has been the focus of all attention since the RWC hosts completed a mould-breaking qualification process with a number of firsts: the first Asian team to progress to the quarter-finals; the first Tier 2 team to win all their pool matches; and the first since Argentina in 2007 to beat two Tier 1 teams (Ireland and Scotland on this occasion).
And so, Stick-San, what do you think of Japan?
“Japan are a good side,” said Mzwandile Stick, assistant coach.
“We know the whole country is excited and behind them. We have seen how much they have developed in the last couple of years and they are playing a good style of running rugby.”
“We saw the speed and the tempo of how they play the game – it was a proper performance to get them through the play offs. They are really doing well, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
How would you describe their play, Stick-san?
“We know the plan is to keep the ball in play for close to 50 minutes so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“But we’re trying to adjust to make sure we can keep up with them. We will come up with a good plan and we have also been working very hard in training sessions to make sure that we can keep up with that tempo.
“They’re also a very skilful side and you can see that they are well coached.
“If you look at the background when it comes to the coaching staff, they have lots of New Zealand influence in Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown.
“We know the New Zealand philosophy about the game and putting ball through hands so that we can probably expect something close to how the All Blacks are playing.
“But when I am watching them [Japan] they also remind me of Argentina. That’s one side that when they have more time and ball in hand, they can be dangerous. So, we’ve got to make sure is that we’re at our best with our defence systems because they are really very, very skilful with quick players.
“Jamie Joseph compares those two wings to the Ferrari cars, so we are going to have to be at our best and not allow those Ferrari cars to get into fifth gear.”
And how do you stop Japan’s running game?
“As a coaching team we still have to finalise how we’re going to play against them but as I mentioned they have a good coaching side so irrespective of how we’re going to come and play against them we know that they will be able to keep up with it.”
And the added challenge of playing against the hosting nation?
“We know they will be playing with a lot of passion as the hosts. The support will be behind them and we could sense the vibe in the stadium at Yokohama even when we were watching on TV.
“Seeing their plans fall into place against Scotland means that we’ve also got to make sure that we pitch up and make sure that we are switched on and that we don’t under-estimate them.
“They are ranked seventh in the world and we have to make sure that we’re well prepared and that we’re able to handle whatever they throw at us.”
Expect more of the same tomorrow: Tokyo, Day 3.