Victor Matfield (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa are “nervous” and have been forced into choosing a much stronger team than they normally would for this test match, Japanese coach Eddie Jones believes.
According to the supersport.com website, Jones named his team on Thursday to face the Springboks on Saturday in their Rugby World Cup opener in Brighton, hinting that the Springbok nerves may well play into Japan’s hands as they will try and exploit the early jitters to keep themselves in the game.
The former Springbok assistant said he was shocked at the Springboks' loss against Argentina in Durban a few weeks ago and believes the pressure they are under forced them to pick players such as Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger and others to make a good start to the tournament.
“South Africa have had a tough time of late. They haven’t done well in the Rugby Championship,” Jones said at his team announcement.
“The first time in their great history they lost to Argentina. Who would have thought South Africa would lose to Argentina? So you never know what is around the corner.”
Jones believes if they weren’t so under pressure the selection would have been quite different.
“We know South Africa are going to be nervy. We see them playing a guy like Matfield in this game when we normally expect him to rest.
“They are nervous because of their previous results and that is natural. You guys know the pressure South Africa are under to perform. So when they pick big names to play and if we can at the beginning of the game inch up that pressure a bit, then who knows what can happen?”
Still, Jones said while South Africa want to control the pace, the Japanese team want as fast a game as possible.
“It is no secret that we will move the ball around. We’re not going to play physically against South Africa. We will try and move the ball as much we can. We want a 45-minute ball-in-play game. South Africa will do everything they can to keep the ball out and slow it down,” he added.
“The only time they want to play is when they’re 30 metres from our line, otherwise they don’t want the ball on the paddock.”
Despite Burger and Fourie du Preez announcing they had helped their team with what to expect from the Japanese, Jones doesn’t believe it will make any difference.
“They understand how we want to play. We understand how they want to play.Whatever inside information there is, it doesn’t really matter. It only matters when you’re sending emails to each other saying 'what are you saying'.
“They’re good guys, great guys – probably some of the best South Africa has ever produced and you know if South Africa are to win the World Cup, a guy like Fourie du Preez must be at his best.”
“When Fourie gets on, hopefully we can be in control before he finds form. He should rather be playing golf in Eastbourne.”
Jones was assistant to Jake White in 2007 and coached both Du Preez and Burger at Suntory Sungoliath in Japan.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Fourie du Preez, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 JP Pietersen
15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Male Sau, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kotaro Matsushima, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Hendrik Tui, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Hitoshi Ono, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Substitutes: 16 Takeshi Kazu, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20. Amanaki Mafi, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Karne Hesketh