Japan vow to take the game to South Africa

Prop Kensuke Hatakeyama says Japan will stand up to South Africa in the scrum

World Rugby minnows Japan have vowed to take the game to two time Rugby World
Cup winners the Springboks when the teams meet in Brighton on Saturday.

Japan have been preparing for their opening clash with some new techniques
and want a strong showing to prove that they are worthy hosts of the 2019 World

According to defence coach Leigh Jones Japan have perfected the art of the
“chop tackle” to counter their heavyweight opponents.

Japan’s less imposing stature has often been a handicap in past tournaments
and the likes of South Africa prop Tendai ‘the Beast’ Mtawarira will pose a
new threat in the Pool B game in Brighton.

But Jones said Japan’s players can counter the brawn with smart ‘chop’ tackles
where the defender throws his arms around an advancing player’s legs in the
same way a lumberjack would chop a tree down by taking it down at the base.

“I’ve said this to the guys, but I think Japan players are the best chop
tacklers in the world. They have to be, to cope with the size of the other teams,”
said Jones, a key assistant to Japan’s head coach Eddie Jones.

“We are the best chop team in the world.”

South Africa’s coach Heyneke Meyer has acknowledged the awkward threat posed
by the Japanese XV.

“We play against the big teams from the Southern and Northern Hemisphere
quite often and with them it’s mostly a case of you know what to expect,”
said Meyer.

“But Japan will pose a different threat,” he added. “Our players
who play in Japan have warned us to expect a very high tempo game and good,
low tackling to stop momentum.”

Leigh Jones said South Africa will be wary of the chop tackles.

“Everybody will treat Japan with respect so they will do their homework
and analysis,” he said.

Japan’s players say they have been working on other ways to make sure their
forwards can match South Africa.

“The way we’ve been scrumming lately has added to our confidence and if
we take it up another notch against South Africa, it will do wonders for our
self-belief,” said prop Keita Inagaki.

Kensuke Hatakeyama, also a prop, said “We’ve been visualising the way
South Africa scrum all along and how we can counter that. That’s something we
weren’t doing four years ago for our first game against France.

“I think we’re more capable of holding our own in the scrum.”

Hatekeyama admitted that South Africa are “incredibly strong with set
pieces; they built their game plan around them.

“We need to be able to fight them in the scrum so we can get into our
rhythm and not theirs. But above all we’ve got to show a will to compete.”

Japan face Scotland just four days after South Africa and that is a looming

“If we’re lousy in our first game, I can’t imagine the kind of shape we’ll
be in for our second because we only have three days in between,” said

“Our focus has solely been on South Africa. We did a lot of going over
the other teams in May, June, July but to be honest, I hadn’t thought about
Scotland until I was asked about it now.”

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