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JOHANNESBURG — The Springboks’ international schedule in the buildup to the World Cup in Japan appears to be settled with the addition of a warm-up match against Japan. Four years ago, a Test match against Japan would be considered a bit of a run-around. Not any more. Not since that fateful day at the Brighton Community Stadium on 19 September 2015 when South Africa played Japan in their opening match of the 2015 World Cup, and lost 32-34. The man who had guided South Africa to World Cup success in 2007, Eddie Jones, turned the tables on the Boks and engineered a famous win when replacement wing Karne Hesketh crashed over with time up on the official clock. It was the first time the two nations had met in a Test match and the first time Japan had beaten a Sanzar nation. It was no fluke either. Japan went on to win two more games in the group stage (26-5 against Samoa and 28-18 against the USA), but were thumped by Scotland 10-45. Since that famous day, Japan’s rugby has remained on an even keel. While they’ve yet to repeat that giant-killing feat, their rugby has become more professional, attracting some of the world’s top players in the twilight of their careers to inspire and motivate the youngsters around them. This year they beat Russia and Georgia, they beat Italy 25-22 in Kobe and put 31 points past the mighty All Blacks (who replied with 69 of their own) in their clash in Tokyo in November. They were leading England 15-10 at halftime at Twickenham before going down 15-35. Japan aren’t the whipping boys of international rugby, and the warm-up match against the Springboks will be more than a chance for both sides to merely stretch their legs. – David O’Sullivan
The Springboks will have an ideal opportunity to fine-tune their final preparations for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan when they face the hosts in a historic match before the start of the international showpiece.
SA Rugby and the Japanese Rugby Football Union (JRFU) announced details of this international fixture on Monday 17 December – 10 months before the start of the RWC 2019 – which will be played on Friday, 6 September 2019 at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama north of Tokyo.
The Boks will open their RWC campaign two weeks later, on Saturday, 21 September 2019, against the defending champions, New Zealand, at the International Stadium Yokohama.
“This is an ideal opportunity for the Boks to get match-ready for the Rugby World Cup,” said Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby.
“Our initial plans were to only arrive in Japan for a pre-tournament holding camp on 7 September, but thanks to the JRFU we will now be leaving a week earlier, giving us almost three weeks in Japan before the start of the tournament.
“Apart from the much-needed game time on the field, this additional time in Japan, to get used to the weather and other conditions. Playing this game against the Brave Blossoms will be a wonderful way to get ready for the Rugby World Cup and we are truly grateful for the opportunity.”
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, also thanked the JRFU for the invitation to host the Springboks.
“This will truly be a historic occasion – not only will it be the Boks’ first ever match in Japan, but also only the second time ever we face the men in red and white,” said Roux.
“One of the learnings from 2015 was that there was too much time without proper match practice between the Boks’ last Test, which was against Argentina in Buenos Aires, and their opening match against Japan more than a month later.
“To have this fixture will definitely benefit Rassie Erasmus and his team and we would like to thank our Japanese friends for agreeing to it.”
The president of the JRFU, Tadashi Okamura, said Japan are very honoured to host the Springboks in their country ahead of the RWC2019.
“It gives us great pleasure that the Japan national team has been given an opportunity to play against the Springboks, who has won the Rugby World Cup twice, ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019,” said Mr Okamura.
“The match takes place at an important time when all participating teams are finalising their preparations for the RWC2019 in Japan.
“I would like to express our sincere thanks to South Africa Rugby Union and its national team, the Springboks, for accepting our offer to stage this match. Our special thanks also go to all the people concerned in Kumagaya city, Saitama prefecture, who helped us to organise the match.”
After the game against Japan, the Boks will travel southwest to Kagoshima City, where their pre-tournament holding camp will take place from 7 to 13 September 2019.
The Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup match schedule is (with local and SA times):
Saturday, 21 September: South Africa vs New Zealand, International Stadium Yokohama (18h45 / 11h45)
Saturday, 28 September: South Africa vs Namibia, City of Toyota Stadium (18h45 / 11h45)
Friday, 4 October: South Africa vs Italy, Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa (18h45 / 11h45)
Tuesday, 8 October: South Africa vs Canada, Kobe Misaki Stadium (19h15 / 12h15)
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