TOKYO (Reuters) - The build-up to Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final between Japan and South Africa has inevitably been dominated by talk of the Brave Blossoms’ famous win over the Springboks in Brighton four years ago.
Japan, under coach Eddie Jones, shocked the rugby world when Karne Hasketh scored a last-minute try to beat South Africa 34-32 in the England 2015 pool stages.
It was a result that put Japan on the map and embarrassed South Africa, despite them going on to reach the semi-finals.
South Africa gained a certain measure of revenge with an emphatic 41-7 win over Japan in a World Cup warm-up last month but knocking the hosts out of their own tournament would be the perfect remedy for four years of hurt.
“It was very tough to lose like that in England, that has stuck with us until the game we had to play when we got here,” Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, who was on the bench that day in 2015, said on Friday.
“It is something obviously we never want to go through again.
“It was good to play that game before the World Cup just to get that monkey off our back.”
Japan go into the match high on confidence having won all four of their matches so far.
“Now it is a different ballgame again, it is playoffs, so we are going to have to be at our best again,” added Kolisi.
“They have really improved as a team. They are a much better team than they were four years ago.”
Handre Pollard is another who remembers how painful that defeat was.
“Us, as a group and the guys that were part of that in 2015, certainly learned from the mistakes that we made and hopefully we can improve on that going into this playoff series,” the flyhalf said.
“But it is not a big focus. We just focus on Japan and playing our best rugby on Sunday and winning, whether it is by one point or whatever, you have just got to win.”
South Africa have won the World Cup twice and so, unlike their opponents who are making their debut in the knockout stage, the Springboks know what it takes to win these big matches.
“It is not like any other test match. It is playoff time now,” said Kolisi.
“We have prepared for a normal test match but us as players know what we need to do and what is needed to be done.
“So, I don’t think anyone needs to tell us this is a big game. We know as players. If you don’t know already then you are in the wrong place.”
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Christian Radnedge