‘Boks mentally prepared for Japan’ – Siya Kolisi

David Skippers

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says his team has embraced the mental challenge of a Rugby World Cup quarter-final against the host nation, Japan.

The Springboks will have to battle the Brave Blossoms – as well as the lion’s share of the sell-out 50,000-strong crowd at the Tokyo Stadium – on Sunday if they are to reach the last four.

But it will be no easier a challenge than the one they faced in their tournament opener, when Rassie Erasmus’ side kicked-off against reigning champions New Zealand.

A 23-13 defeat left the Boks with no margin for error but they refused to blink and took care of Namibia, Italy and Canada with minimum fuss.

And Kolisi believes his men have shown they can cope under pressure, having survived three win-or-bust encounters to reach the knockout stages.

“Luckily for us it’s been do-or-die since the first game, so we’ve been in that mindset for a couple of weeks now,” he told Press Association Sport.

“Sunday is not like any other Test match. It’s play-off time now. We have all prepared for it mentally and the coaches haven’t put that kind of pressure on us.

“But we know what needs to be done. I don’t think anybody needs to tell us that this is a big game. If we don’t know that already then we are in the wrong place.”

The Boks need no warning over the threat posed by the hosts, having been on the sore end of the biggest upset the sport has ever seen four years ago when Japan claimed a shock 34-32 win at the last World Cup.

Kolisi started among the substitutes that day in Brighton and had been subbed on and then off again by the time Karne Hesketh wrote his name into the rugby history books as he ran in for the try that stunned the world.

Yet South Africa recovered from that loss to reach the semi-finals that year and recently went some way to exorcising the ghosts of 2015 by thrashing the Japanese 41-7 in a warm-up clash just two weeks before the current tournament got under way.

Should lightning strike twice, however, Kolisi hinted it would be no shock given the rapid improvements made by Japan, who have already toppled Ireland and Scotland on their way to the quarters.

“That was very tough to lose that match in England. That stuck with us until that game when we got here (before this World Cup). It’s something that we never want to go through again,” he added.

“But they are a much better team now. It was good to play that game before the World Cup, just to get that monkey off our back.

“Now it’s a different game again. We are going to have to be at our best again because they have really improved as a team. They are much better now than four years ago so we are looking forward to the challenge.”