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Springboks, Japan prepare for Rugby World Cup shock rematch

Ayumu Goromaru and Japan stunned South Africa and the world when they defeated the Springboks in Brighton during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

KUMAGAYA, Japan -- South Africa head into their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match, against hosts Japan on Friday, with not only the upcoming tournament on their minds but also the embarrassing loss they suffered the last time the teams met.

At the 2015 World Cup, Japan caused one of the biggest upsets in tournament history with their 34-32 victory over the Springboks in England.

Both sides have described the coming match in the World Cup host city of Kumagaya, north of Tokyo, as "tournament preparation", but the events in Brighton four years ago have dominated the build-up.

"You can definitely see this [Japan] is a much different team, much more fitter, much more stronger [than four years ago]," South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said on Thursday.

"It is going to be a challenge, a whole new challenge, but we are also a different team at the same time.

"For both teams this is going to be something new, something different with a whole new coaching staff."

Both teams have tasted success this year, with South Africa claiming the Rugby Championship for the first time in a decade while Japan clinched the Pacific Nations Cup with a perfect record, and there could be a major clash of styles on show.

Japan have said they would like to keep the ball in hand as much as possible, and stretch the Springboks across the field.

Kolisi, who will lead the Springboks for the first time in nine months, having returned from injury to face Argentina in Pretoria just under three weeks ago, said his team was aware of Japan's intentions and would instead try to turn the match towards their traditional strengths.

"We are going to make sure we stick to our strengths," Kolisi said.

"Our forward pack is quite strong so we are going to have to make sure we stand up.

"We know they are a very fit team who like to keep the ball in hand. They have said they would like to keep the ball in hand as much as they can this weekend, and keep the ball in play."

For Japan, speed is the name of the game.

"All of our opponents at the World Cup are going to be bigger than us so our point of difference of how we want to play the game is going to be based around speed, and how fast we can play the game," Japan assistant coach Tony Brown said.

"We think we have a style of game that can put South Africa under pressure.

"If we can do that... who knows? Hopefully a repeat of four years ago."

Kolisi, meanwhile, said of his injury absence that "it was tough watching from the sidelines, but the great thing was that I was involved the whole time".

"The coach made sure that I was in all the meetings and I ran the water in one game, which was completely amazing and different; it's as involved as you can be in a Test match without actually playing.

"And I could see how hard the guys were working. I have to say, this is a special group and what makes them so special is that they work so hard for one another.

"All I was banking on was that as soon as my injury was healed I was fit and ready to take my place."

Japan open the World Cup against Russia in Tokyo on Sept. 20, while South Africa face New Zealand in Yokohama the following day.