TOKYO • Tomorrow's test against South Africa is a "must-perform" match for Japan, coach Jamie Joseph said after naming a strong squad for the contest as the Brave Blossoms finalise preparations for the Rugby World Cup on home soil.
The match in Kumagaya is both teams' final test before the Cup starts on Sept 20 and both Joseph and opposite number Rassie Erasmus have named strong sides.
After winning all three matches to clinch the Pacific Nations Cup last month, Japan are full of confidence. But they know that the Springboks, recent winners of the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship, pose a different level of threat.
"It is not a must-win game. Against Russia (in the World Cup opener) is a must-win game," Joseph said yesterday.
"South Africa is a 'must perform' game; we need to perform, play our type of rugby and take our challenge to them. I don't know where you get 'it's a must-win game' from.
"It is the last game of our preparation, it gives our players a real physical experience at the set piece, at the tackle, in the line-out and in the maul."
Japan will be without key forwards Shota Horie and Kazuki Himeno, who have niggling injuries, but Joseph believes he has selected a team who can challenge the Boks at set pieces and breakdowns.
"You have to think about the opposition we are coming up against in the World Cup and all the four teams are strong at set pieces," said Joseph, whose team are drawn in Pool A alongside Russia, Samoa, Ireland and Scotland.
The last time the teams met, no-hopers Japan stunned the Boks 34-32 on the English south coast in their opener at the 2015 World Cup, an upset of such seismic proportions a movie about it has just been released.
Titled The Brighton Miracle, the movie will feature the highly regarded New Zealander actor Temuera Morrison playing then Japan coach Eddie Jones.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN