Probably one of the most painful memories of Springbok rugby supporters harks back a mere four years to Rugby World Cup 2015 when a proud rugby nation was humbled by one of the minnows of world rugby: Japan. It was a performance that saw then coach, Heyneke Meyer, having to apologise to the country and it probably cost him his job in the end.
The fact that the current coach, Rassie Erasmus, has named pretty much the same team as secured the draw in Wellington earlier in the year tells us two things: he doesn’t want to risk losing; and he doesn’t want to show anything new to the All Blacks.
The only difference in the team selected for Friday’s World Cup warm-up match and the one that did duty that day in New Zealand in late July is the return of captain Siya Kolisi – at the expense of Kwagga Smith.
Interestingly, many of the comments on social media seem to characterise this as the strongest possible Springbok line-up. Perhaps. As we saw against both Argentina and Australia, our strongest front row was on the bench that day in Wellington.
It will be the same again against Japan later today, but that is probably defensible given the expected quality of the opposition. Typically, Erasmus has warned the Boks not to be complacent against what he called “a very good Japanese team”. The Springbok team is:15. Willie le Roux 14. Cheslin Kolbe 13. Lukhanyo Am 12. Damian de Allende 11. Makazole Mapimpi 10. Handré Pollard 9. Faf de Klerk 8. Duane Vermeulen 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit 6. Siya Kolisi 5. Franco Mostert 4. Eben Etzebeth 3. Frans Malherbe 2. Malcolm Marx 1. Steven Kitshoff
Replacements:16. Bongi Mbonambi 17. Tendai Mtawarira 18. Trevor Nyakane 19. RG Snyman 20. Francois Louw 21. Herschel Jantjies 22. Frans Steyn 23. Jesse Kriel