Rugby World Cup: Springboks to play warm-up match vs. Japan in Saitama

The fixture will afford the Springboks a further opportunity to acclimatise to conditions in Japan, where the team has never previously played. Andres Larrovere / AFP

South Africa will play Japan in a final Rugby World Cup warm-up match two weeks before facing the New Zealand All Blacks in their opening fixture of the global showpiece in Yokohama.

The fixture will be played on Friday, Sep. 6 at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

"This is an ideal opportunity for the Boks to get match-ready for the Rugby World Cup," SA Rugby's Director of Rugby and Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus said in a statement issued on Monday.

"Our initial plans were to only arrive in Japan for a pre-tournament holding camp on Sep. 7, but thanks to the JRFU [Japanese Rugby Football Union] we will now be leaving a week earlier, giving us almost three weeks in Japan before the start of the tournament.

"Apart from the much-needed game time on the field, this additional time in Japan [will allow the Springboks] to get used to the weather and other conditions. Playing this game against the Brave Blossoms will be a wonderful way to get ready for the Rugby World Cup and we are truly grateful for the opportunity."

Jurie Roux, chief executive of SA Rugby, also thanked the JRFU for the invitation to host the Springboks.

"Not only will it be the Boks' first ever match in Japan, but also only the second time ever we face the men in red and white," Roux said.

"One of the learnings from 2015 was that there was too much time without proper match practice between the Boks' last Test, which was against Argentina in Buenos Aires, and their opening match against Japan more than a month later."

That match against Japan, in Brighton, saw the Brave Blossoms pull off the greatest shock in rugby history by defeating the Boks 34-32 with a try from Karne Hesketh three minutes into time added-on at the end of the second half.

"To have this fixture will definitely benefit Rassie Erasmus and his team and we would like to thank our Japanese friends for agreeing to it," Roux said.

The president of the JRFU, Tadashi Okamura, said Japan was very honoured to host the Springboks ahead of the World Cup.

"It gives us great pleasure that the Japan national team has been given an opportunity to play against the Springboks, who has won the Rugby World Cup twice, ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019," Okamura said.

"The match takes place at an important time when all participating teams are finalising their preparations for the RWC2019 in Japan.

"I would like to express our sincere thanks to South Africa Rugby Union and its national team, the Springboks, for accepting our offer to stage this match. Our special thanks also go to all the people concerned in Kumagaya city, Saitama prefecture, who helped us to organise the match."

After the game against Japan, the Boks will travel southwest to Kagoshima City, where their pre-tournament holding camp will take place from Sept. 7-13.

The Springboks' Confirmed Test Matches for 2019

Rugby Championship

Jul. 20: South Africa vs. Australia, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

Jul. 27: New Zealand vs. South Africa, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Aug. 10: Argentina vs. South Africa, venue TBC

International Matches

Aug. 17: South Africa vs. Argentina, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Sep. 6: Japan vs. South Africa, Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama

Rugby World Cup

Sep. 21: South Africa vs. New Zealand, International Stadium, Yokohama

Sep 28: South Africa vs. Namibia, City of Toyota Stadium, Tokyo

Oct 4: South Africa vs. Italy, Shizuoka Stadium, Ecopa

Oct 8: South Africa vs. Canada, Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe