The Springboks may be fluent in Japanese by the time the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off as they will be in Tokyo three weeks before the global event begins on 20 September next year.
SA Rugby on Monday announced that they had accepted an offer from Japan Rugby to schedule a pre-tournament scrimmage against the hosts on 6 September at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in what will be the Boks’ first match on Japanese soil.
“Our initial plans were to only arrive in Japan for a holding camp on 7 September,” said Bok coach Rassie Erasmus. “Thanks to the JRFU we will now be leaving one 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, we’ll have additional time to get used to the weather and other conditions. This is an ideal opportunity for the Boks to get match-ready for the Rugby World Cup.”
South Africa’s campaign will get underway on Day Two of the World Cup, two weeks after the hit-out against Japan, when they square up against the All Blacks in Yokohama on 21 September.
The Boks have only played Japan once before and the result was, at the time, the most embarrassing loss in team history. The Brave Blossoms torpedoed South Africa’s start to the 2015 Rugby World Cup with an exhilarating 34-32 victory in Brighton.
“One of the learnings from 2015 was that there was too much time without proper match practice between the Boks’ last Test, which was against Argentina in Buenos Aires, and their opening match against Japan more than a month later,” said SA Rugby chief, Jurie Roux.
As beneficial as the warm-up match may be, three weeks is a long time to keep tight forwards entertained in a foreign country before the start of a six-week tournament.
Boks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup match schedule is (SA times):
Saturday, 21 September: SA vs NZ, International Stadium Yokohama (11.45am)
Saturday, 28 September: SA vs Namibia, City of Toyota Stadium (11.45am)
Friday, 4 October: SA vs Italy, Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa (11.45am)
Tuesday, 8 October: SA vs Canada, Kobe Misaki Stadium (12.15pm)
— Staff Writer