Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Rugby

Japan look to overhaul experienced South Africa in Rugby World Cup opener

Published 18/09/2015

Eddie Jones knows his Japan side are the underdogs as they prepare to face South Africa
Eddie Jones knows his Japan side are the underdogs as they prepare to face South Africa

Japan head coach Eddie Jones knows his side will assume the role of David when they take on one of rugby's true Goliaths in South Africa on Saturday.

But the Cherry Blossoms boss is refusing to rule out the possibility that the Japanese underdogs can slay the two-time champions when they kick off their World Cup campaign in Brighton.

Toppling the world's number three-ranked nation looks a challenge of giant proportions, though.

Springboks head coach Heyneke Meyer has named a starting XV boasting 880 caps as he looks to make the most of his star-studded squad.

On the other hand, three members of Jones' current group were not even born the last time Japan managed a World Cup win, a 52-8 thrashing of Zimbabwe back in October 1991.

Ranked 13 in the IRB standings, the Asian champions are one of three sides - along with Italy and Romania - who have featured at every World Cup without ever making it out of their pool.

However, former Australia head coach Jones insists there is a first time for everything.

He said: "It's the first game of the World Cup, something we worked hard for the last four years. It's David vs Goliath. They've got the greatest winning record in World Cup history, a massive physical team with experience.

"We've got the least winning record at the World Cup and we're the smallest team in the World Cup. But for us, we have the most experienced Japanese team. It's a great opportunity for us, we're looking forward to it.

"We've come to this World Cup to gain some respect for Japan. At the end of the tournament we want people to say that Japan is a respected rugby country. If we play well enough we're going to win games of rugby.

"South Africa have had a tough time as of late. They haven't done well in the Rugby Championship - for the first time in their history they lost to Argentina. Who would've thought South Africa would lose to Argentina? You never know what's around the corner."

South Africa skipper Jean de Villiers is refusing to even contemplate an upset as he looks ahead to his third World Cup.

The former Munster centre, who has recovered from a broken jaw to take part, said: "We have seen the strength of the Japanese and also their weaknesses. We would like expose those weaknesses. We know it's going to be a set-piece battle.

"I'm looking forward to getting started. It's nice to go into battle with guys you enjoy spending time with.

"Being at the World Cup is special and being captain is something I'm very proud of. The squad is very special. They're not just good rugby players, they're good people."

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph