South Africa star Cheslin Kolbe insists that his side will not be getting caught up in their shock defeat to Japan at the 2015 World Cup when the teams meet again on Sunday.
Four years ago, a late try by Karne Hesketh saw Japan stun the Springboks with a 34-32 victory but given their performances so far, and their finish at the top of Pool A, a victory this time around would not be such a shock.
However, Kolbe has insisted that his side are not dwelling on that shock loss in Brighton.
“If you compare rugby in 2015 to 2019, it has definitely gone a different way – it’s not the same style of rugby that’s being played. Teams are more technical currently than the previous World Cup.
“Knowing we had the 2015 loss to Japan – I wouldn’t say it’s stuck in our head, but we know it happened. But it’s four years later and a new opportunity for us.”
Japan went unbeaten in their pool games with both Ireland and Scotland failing to contain their potent attack. Their wingers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima have been particularly dangerous though they are not the tallest of players standing at 5ft 8ins and 5ft 10ins respectively.
Kolbe, who measures up at 5ft 7ins, does not believe that height has a major impact in rugby.
“There is a saying going around that dynamite comes in small packages. We all have something special we can contribute to our teams. Both Japanese wingers are playing phenomenal rugby, and that is what we have to do for our national teams.
“For me, it’s about giving as much momentum as possible for our forwards to keep going on the front foot.”
The 25-year-old has been impressed by the style of play of Jamie Joseph’s side and believes they have evolved since they fell to a heavy defeat to the Spingboks during the warm-up games.
“Japan are playing exciting rugby. They are giving the ball a lot of air, and want to stretch your defensive structures. It’s a style I love to play as well.
“But we have our own structures and plan we want to implement, especially this weekend, and cut down their options to force them into some structure.
“Playing them in September, we knew there was a bit of pressure because of what happened in 2015. But we knew we had a plan we wanted to focus on and implement on the field.
“We got the victory in that match, but if you look at Japan at the World Cup, they have definitely evolved and improved their game in different departments – especially line-speed in defence, and a lot of attacking at the breakdowns.
“They have definitely worked on a few things, and are a better team than in September.”
The Toulouse winger has been very impressive in his performances at the World Cup to date especially in their pool game against New Zealand where he made 118 metres and beat 11 defenders.
Kolbe suffered an ankle injury in South Africa’s victory over Italy but he maintains that he is fully fit for this weekend’s quarter-final showdown in Toyko.
“The ankle has healed up pretty well, and it’s good to be back on the field with the boys. I am confident and ready.”