Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus yesterday spoke of his team’s love for Japan and their people, and then rather begrudgingly, he had to label them the enemy – but only for one week.
The South Africans and surprise package and hosts Japan meet in the fourth quarter-final at this year’s World Cup in Japan in Tokyo on Sunday (12.15pm SA time kick-off).
Erasmus’ team qualified for the last eight as the runners-up from Pool B while Japan won Pool A, ahead of Ireland and Scotland, the latter who miss out on the quarter-finals following their sensational loss to the hosts on Sunday.
“We love the country, we love the people, but we have to try and beat them,” said Erasmus yesterday when the team arrived in Tokyo from Kobe where they had spent the weekend.
“It’s really tough to not like the Japanese people,” continued Erasmus. “The way they have embraced all the teams, on and off the field, is something special which I have never experienced in my life.
“But, we are playing for our country and we want to try and win the World Cup … so for the next week, unfortunately, Japan is the enemy.”
Erasmus said he wasn’t surprised Jamie Joseph’s side had managed to qualify for their first quarter-final and had improved since the Boks won a pre-World Cup warm-up game 41-7 in Kumagaya six weeks ago.
“There was no pressure that day and the way Japan have embraced the pressure (in the tournament) is impressive,” said Erasmus.
“The pressure on Sunday will be massive for both teams and it will be interesting to see how both teams handle the expectation.
“Japan’s success isn’t a surprise to us … they have improved as they’ve gone along, as have we, which will make for a great contest on Sunday.
“We’re going to have to play really well to beat them because they are ranked six or seven in the world and they deserve it.