The Springboks completed their first training session in front of more than 2 000 excited local supporters on Sunday, within a few hours of arriving at their training base in Japan.
The Springboks had a morning gym workout followed by an afternoon field session in Seki, in cloudy but hot and humid conditions (29˚C), following a few hours’ sleep after completing their 25-hour journey from South Africa.
“It’s great to be here and the welcome has been great,” said Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby, at a Sunday lunchtime media conference.
“We’ve heard a lot about Japan from the many players in our squad who have played here, as well as from one of our coaches Matt Proudfoot.
“They have all loved their time in Japan and have talked a lot about it before we arrived, so it’s great to finally be here and to experience it ourselves.
“We did a number of detailed recces before coming out and the hotels and training fields are really outstanding. Now it’s down to business and a very tough and important match against Japan.”
Erasmus underlined that point by getting straight to work on Sunday as the team began preparations in earnest for Friday’s match in Kumagaya, a 45-minute bullet train ride from Tokyo.
The Springboks prepare in Seki until Wednesday when they will transfer to the match venue.
“We have huge respect for Japanese rugby,” said Erasmus after being reminded – not for the first time – of Japan’s victory over the Springboks (32-34) in Brighton at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“They have an outstanding coaching team who have been preparing for this game for a while now and they will be determined to prove that 2015 was not a freak result.
“They’re well-conditioned and come off the back of winning the Pacific Nations Cup after victories over USA, Tonga and Fiji, so they have reason to be confident. And they have just equalled their highest ever world ranking (9th).
“They made a movie about the last time they played us – it’s our job to make sure there’s no sequel.”
The match will be shown live on SuperSport 1 (kick off 12-15pm SA time).