The statistics suggest Japan has little chance of bringing off the greatest upset in World Cup history in beating two-time rugby world champions South Africa but the ‘Brave Blossoms’ coach Eddie Jones is licking his lips at trying to pull it off.
The 55-year-old Australian — who was part of the Springboks coaching staff which guided the team to the 2007 World Cup title — said the Pool B clash on Saturday, in Brighton, is a great chance for the Japan side to make a mark on the game.
“It’s David vs Goliath,” Jones said at a press conference.
“They’ve got the greatest winning record in World Cup history, a massive physical team with experience.
“We’ve got the least winning record at the World Cup, and we’re the smallest team in the World Cup.
“But for us, we have the most experienced Japanese team. It’s a great opportunity for us, we’re looking forward to it.”
Jones, who also coached Australia to their heartbreaking defeat in the 2003 World Cup final as Jonny Wilkinson landed a drop goal in the last minute of extra-time to deliver the trophy to England, said Japan would have to improvise to come away with a win.
“Everyone usually fights with spears so we’ve got to fight with other things,” said Jones.
“It’s finding those things that we can fight with.”
Jones, whose side at least comes into the encounter on the back of three consecutive Test successes albeit over Uruguay (twice) and Georgia, said Argentina’s historic win over the Springboks in the recent Rugby Championship in Durban showed surprises could happen.
His remarks come despite the fact Japan — who will host the tournament in 2019 — have not recorded a win at the World Cup since 1991.
“South Africa have had a tough time as of late,” said Jones, who has set a target of a quarter-final spot.
“They haven’t done well in the Rugby Championship.
“For the first time in their history they lost to Argentina. Who would’ve thought South Africa would lose to Argentina? You never know what’s around the corner.
“We’ve come to this World Cup to gain some respect for Japan. At the end of the tournament we want people to say that Japan is a respected rugby country.
“If we play well enough we’re going to win games of rugby.”
Jones, who steps down after the tournament, will hope that if the victory doesn’t come against the Springboks then it will against their other opponents, Scotland, Samoa or the United States. – Agence France-Presse