South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said Thursday his team are "prepared" to take on Japan to avenge their infamous World Cup loss four years ago, capitalizing on tips provided by many of their Japan-experienced players.
Ahead of the match against the Brave Blossoms on Friday, the last tune-up before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in two weeks, Kolisi said his team have a "nice advantage" as nine of their players and an assistant coach have worked in Japan's Top League.
(South Africa rugby captain Siya Kolisi)
"Those guys are helping us a lot" on and off the field, Kolisi said, referring to players such as Handre Pollard, Jesse Kriel and Franco Mostert. "We don't want to leave a bad name for ourselves...We pride ourselves on discipline."
Rassie Erasmus' side were the first foreign team to arrive in Japan for the World Cup having camped in Gifu Prefecture in central Japan from Aug. 30 through Wednesday, giving them time to adjust to Japan's hot and humid weather.
(South Africa rugby head coach Rassie Erasmus)
Kolisi, the first black player to captain the Springboks in a test match, will head the team's quest for a third World Cup championship, and he said he is "really grateful" to lead the team, something he "never dreamed of."
"It really makes me happy to know that anybody from South Africa can actually sit here today and that is a special thing," the 28-year-old said at a press conference following the Springboks' captain's run at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, the venue of Friday's match.
Kolisi grew up in the impoverished Zwide township outside Port Elizabeth before being offered a scholarship at prestigious Grey High School.
As a message to those in Japan and in South Africa, he said, "If you really want to make it, you have to strive and just prepare yourself for the opportunity and you never know when it might come. Just be ready."
(South Africa rugby player Malcolm Marx)
"The worst thing is you are never prepared for an opportunity when it comes."
In a strange twist, Japan also has a trio of South African-born players, including Pieter Labuschagne, who became eligible to represent Japan in June.
"I have played with a few of (the Springboks) and if I didn't play with them, I played against a lot of them as well," said the Pretoria-born flanker.
Of Kolisi, Labuschagne said, "He's a really good player and he's been playing for South Africa for a really long time."
"I played against him both at the Cheetahs and Bulls when he was at Western Province so most of the time we usually came up against each other as rival. Off the field he's a really good guy."