The Springboks have declared themselves very satisfied at having got the jump on their rivals to win the World Cup by arriving in Japan well before other countries such as New Zealand, their opposition in the September 21 pool opener in Yokohama.
The South Africans transfer from their training base in the south-east corner of Japan on Saturday to Tokyo, and coach Rassie Erasmus feels they are ahead of the curve as they attempt to win a first World Cup since 2007.
“We have been together for 11, 12 weeks now, basically away from home most of the time, and we have certainly got closer as a team,” said Erasmus. “We have achieved a lot of the objectives we set in coming early to Japan.
“The first was to get to know the country and the people and how things operate here and to be comfortable in the country and we’ve achieved that. The second one was to get some match time against good opposition, which was Japan, and we achieved that.
“And then obviously the third one was to get the guys used to the climatic conditions, not just the heat, but the humidity, both in match and in training time and we’ve done that.”
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Springbok captain Siya Kolisi added: “It was a great call for us to come early and it has been a great privilege. We know how to handle the conditions now and the fact that our training has been very hard means it will stand us in good stead. The benefits will come through later in the games.
“I’ve also enjoyed the city (Kagoshima), I visited the volcano and it was pretty amazing to see it erupt while we were there, and the people have been so welcoming in the way they have looked after us; they always want to help; they are very welcoming and always ready to help us.”
The Springboks are set to have plenty of support when they face the All Blacks in Yokohama. “Something that has stood out for me – and I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere else – is the people of the host nation wearing the jersey of the visiting team – the Springbok badge,” said Erasmus.
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“That has been amazing to see the Japanese people wearing the Springbok jersey. That shows a lot of respect and we can learn a lot from that. It makes us proud to see that and I think you can be proud of how you have supported the World Cup and adopting teams that are visiting here and making them feel at home.”
The Springboks have been in Japan for nearly a fortnight, but they only felt the World Cup atmosphere for the first time properly on Friday. “This morning when we got up you could feel the change,” said Erasmus.
“We were on Rugby World Cup buses rather than City of Kagoshima buses, the liaison officers were wearing Rugby World Cup shirts, we had accreditation round our necks to get into the training ground so you could definitely feel a shift in the atmosphere.
“The whole of Japan woke up this morning to the knowledge that the World Cup was here and I’m sure that all of the other teams will be feeling what we’re feeling.”
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