JOHANNESBURG – The Springboks will arrive in Japan for the World Cup a week earlier than previously planned next year to play the tournament hosts in a warm-up match in Saitama, South Africa Rugby said on Monday.
South Africa will face Japan at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on Sept. 6, a little over two weeks before the twice world champions open their pool campaign in a blockbuster clash with New Zealand in Yokohama.
Japan recorded the biggest upset in World Cup history when they beat South Africa 34-32 in the pool phase of the last edition in England in 2015… leading to the greatest display of good sportsmanship from fans when South Africans on a train gave Japanese fans a guard of honour, and stood aside to let them off first.
“This is an ideal opportunity for the Boks to get match-ready for the Rugby World Cup,” said South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus.
“Our initial plans were to only arrive in Japan for a pre-tournament holding camp on 7 September but thanks to the JRFU we will now be leaving a week earlier, giving us almost three weeks in Japan before the start of the tournament.
“Apart from the much-needed game time on the field, this additional time in Japan, to get used to the weather and other conditions.”
Following the game against Japan, South Africa will travel to Kagoshima City for a pre-tournament holding camp from Sept. 7 to 13.
The warm-up match would provide the hosts with an ideal opportunity to test their own preparations, the Japanese rugby union (JRFU) said.
“It gives us great pleasure that the Japan national team has been given an opportunity to play against the Springboks ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019,” JRFU president Tadashi Okamura said.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Nick Mulvenney)