Japan has made one injury-enforced change to the starting line-up for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against South Africa, bringing Ryohei Yamanaka in at fullback in place of William Tupou.
Tupou suffered a concussion in Japan’s hard-fought win over Scotland at Yokohama last weekend and drops out of the matchday 23 altogether, with livewire winger Lomano Lava Lemeki named among the replacements as cover for the back three.
Coach Jamie Joseph also made two changes to the forwards on the bench with Wimpie van der Walt and Amanaki Lelei Mafi replacing fellow big men Uwe Helu and Hendrik Tui.
Japan is looking to repeat their heroics from the 2015 World Cup when it beat South Africa 34-32 in one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
Joseph has been praised for his detailed preparations ahead of each match so far at this World Cup, earning four wins from four to top Pool A, but the New Zealander said the players have taken over now.
“It’s really a good sign, as a coach when you feel a little bit redundant,” Joseph said on Friday. “We’ve grown for the last five to six weeks, and we’ve grown mentally and with those improvements, there is improvement in their confidence and the game is improving.”
Before the tournament started, Leitch said Japan wanted to win the World Cup, which raised eyebrows at the time. Now the Brave Blossoms have reached the quarter-finals for the first time, the team are not lowering their expectations.
“This team is not satisfied with what we have today. This is not the end,” said Leitch.
“We are in the last eight… but we want to play more to have a chance to show what we can do.”
“South Africa looks scary, but if we look at our game plan and how to destroy (theirs), we get excited and we gain more confidence to win.”
South Africa rugby coach Rassie Erasmus made 13 changes to the starting lineup in preparation for the Springboks’ matchup against Japan in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The lineup that will play Japan is the same one that beat Italy 49-3 in the Springboks’ third Pool B game.
With the exception of Vincent Koch and Lood de Jager, the rest of the players were in the team that beat Japan 41-7 in the Boks’ final warmup match in Kumagaya in early September. Jesse Kriel and Trevor Nyakane, the two players who are missing, were ruled out of the tournament through injury.