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Kolbe back for 'Boks as Rassie embraces favourites' tag against Japan

‘I’m not one of those coaches who sits here and says to you ‘I’m not really sure’, because we prepare to win.’

Kolbe in training this week.
Kolbe in training this week.
Image: Mark Baker

THE ELECTRIC CHESLIN Kolbe has been passed fit to start on the wing for South Africa this weekend after shaking off an ankle injury sustained against Italy.

Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus has named the same 23 that faced the Azzurri in the pool stage as he bids to avenge the ‘Miracle of Brighton’ against a Japan side that is better now that it was four years ago.

With a six-two forwards-backs split on the bench, South Africa have set the stall out for a hard-hitting game.

“Obviously if you look at our team selection, we’ve got a six-two split, which a lot of people think means we are going to be very forward-dominated, which is true in one sense,” said Erasmus.

However, he said he also wanted a fresh set of forwards off the bench to counteract Japan’s strategy of tiring opposition packs out with their speed.

Right wing Kolbe scored two tries when South Africa spanked Japan 41-7 in a warm-up match last month, when his counterpart on the left, Makazole Mapimpi, stole the show with a hat-trick.

“It was very critical to get him (Kolbe) ready for the quarter-final and to make sure he can go 80 minutes. So we are confident he can go 80 minutes,” said Erasmus, paying tribute to the Springbok medical team.

Erasmus has made only three changes from the side that beat Japan in the warm-up game in Kumagaya near Tokyo, with Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager coming in for Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert.

“Obviously, it wasn’t that easy because a lot of guys had put up their hands and played really well but we tried to get some continuity in the team,” Erasmus said.

Mtawarira, de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit all started the famous game in 2015, when Japan won 34-32 to pull off the greatest shock in World Cup history.

However, Japan are no longer an unknown quantity after they stunned Ireland and Scotland en route to topping Pool A with four wins out of four to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

Both the Brighton match and the Kumagaya clash are “almost irrelevant” coming into the last-eight clash, said Erasmus.

“The way Japan has improved since that game they played against us there (in Kumagaya), is tremendous. They’ve beaten Ireland, they’ve beaten Scotland and they have topped their pool. And they have done it in style,” said the coach.

“But we feel we have also improved a lot since we’ve played that game,” he added.

Asked who he thought the favourites were for the match, he said Japan’s coach Jamie Joseph would “100%” believe the Brave Blossoms were capable of beating his side. But he was characteristically bullish about his own team’s chances.

“If I’m honest with you, I think we are the favourites. I’m not one of those coaches who sits here and says to you ‘I’m not really sure’, because we prepare to win. That doesn’t make it any easier to win,” said the coach.

“Both teams will believe they are favourites inside… that’s why I think it makes for a great match-up where both sides will have great belief.” 

South Africa

15. Willie le Roux
14. Cheslin Kolbe
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Handre Pollard
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Frans Malherbe,
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Lood de Jager
6. Siya Kolisi (capt)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Duane Vermeulen, 

Replacements:

16. Malcolm Marx
17. Steven Kitshoff
18. Vincent Koch
19. RG Snyman
20. Franco Mostert
21. Francois Louw
22. Herschel Jantjies
23. Francois Steyn

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AFP

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