CAPE TOWN – Never mind revenge. Conditions were always going to be the biggest factor for the Springboks going into their final World Cup warm-up match against Japan in Kumagaya yesterday.
And it’s a Test they would have taken a lot from.
They knew it, though. They knew that it would be the biggest challenge.
The Boks were the first team to arrive in Japan in an attempt to acclimatise, and the fact that they played the friendly in that humidity should give them an early advantage – or at least knowledge of what’s to come -though everything is going to depend on what they do with that from here on.
The distance they got the scoreboard to go was an added bonus, not that anybody would have seriously expected yesterday’s result to resemble the Brighton one at all.
Leading up to the match, Bok skipper Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen and Cheslin Kolbe spoke about how important it would be for them to stick to what they know given the conditions.
But another key factor was adaptability.
In that heat, with the ball being slippery and wet, the Boks had to be prepared for anything.
It was a messy affair in many regards, and both teams felt the wrath of the ball’s slippery feel. And while Japan made their intentions of playing a high-tempo game clear right from the start, the Boks’ line speed worked a treat, forcing the hosts into errors a number of times as they tried to spread the ball wide.
Another focus would have been the breakdown, seeing as that was one of the areas from their 2015 shock defeat the Boks would have wanted to fix.
Unlike in 2015, the Boks didn’t allow the Brave Blossoms to again catch them out at the breakdown.
It wasn’t an area where the Boks completely dominated the hosts, but compared to four years ago – when the Japanese shot a couple of defenders out following a ruck to stop the South African ball-carriers’ momentum around the fringes – they didn’t enjoy the same success this time.
Rassie Erasmus also made use of his bench fairly early on in the encounter.
That, in itself, was always going to be a balancing act, not only because of the trying temperatures, but also because it was the last dress rehearsal before they kick off their official proceedings against New Zealand in Yokohama on September 21.
Herschel Jantjies – after coming on for Faf de Klerk – again showed how quickly he can pounce when he ran in a try after Japan knocked the ball on.
Left wing Makazole Mapimpi scored a hat-trick, while Cheslin Kolbe ran in the first one of the game and also added an intercept try later on.
The performances of Kolbe and Mapimpi again highlighted the pleasant dilemma Erasmus faces in terms of his wings, although it seems like a rotational approach between Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi is the route the Bok mentor will go.
The one big concern for the Boks, though, will be Trevor Nyakane, who went off in the 63rd minute with what looked like a leg injury after coming on for Frans Malherbe.
The Springboks’ win will do enough to slightly ease the conscience after Brighton, although that event will never be forgotten. More importantly, though, will be how Erasmus’ men apply the hot lessons they learnt yesterday when the real business kicks off in two weeks’ time.
Scorers in the test match in Kumagaya
South Africa 41
Tries: Kolbe (2), Mapimpi (3), Jantjies
Conversions: Pollard (2), Steyn (2)
Yellow card: Louw