Johannesburg – The Springboks are experiencing extreme conditions at their newest training base in Kagoshima, but according to national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, that is exactly what was asked for when he chose the squad’s base for the next few days.
The Boks transfer to Tokyo at the weekend for what will be test match week building up to their all-important opening World Cup match, so the bulk of the preparations will be done now, with next week being used for the usual fine-tuning that teams go through before a test match.
Kagoshima is the capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture on the south western tip of the island of Kyushu, and the humidity there is rated to be more extreme than it is to the north. His decision to locate in an area known for more extreme conditions was something that Erasmus was asked about in a media conference hosted by both himself, Bok skipper Siya Kolisi and the mayor of Kagoshima.
“We visited quite a few sites to see which was the best opportunity for us, and Kagoshima was the best,” said Erasmus.
“Everything is top notch. The hotel, the food and the training facility. So we are very happy here and that gives us a good chance to do well at this World Cup. We also chose it because the extreme conditions of the heat makes sure the body is well conditioned so that when we get to the match it is easier.
“It was part of the thinking in planning to put the guys in some extreme conditions so that when it comes to the match they will be well prepared and ready for anything.”
Ironically, while the Boks made maximum use of the opportunity to train in the extreme humidity as they began their specific All Black focused preparations for the opening World Cup Pool B fixture in Yokohama on 21 September, Tokyo was being hit by a typhoon.
If that prevents teams that are currently arriving in Japan’s main city from getting out onto the field to do some proper preparation, that will be another reason why Erasmus might have stolen a lead on the All Blacks and other top competitors by heading to Japan early.
By the accounts of those who are there, the Springboks appear to be getting the sort of welcome that the first post-isolation tourists received when they travelled to France, the UK and New Zealand between 1992 and 1994. Back in those days it seemed like there were endless mayoral functions, but also a healthy interest in the touring squad, something demonstrated by the large crowds that have turned up to watch the Boks train.
“The attendance at training was amazing,” said Kolisi. “They (the people of Kagoshima) have welcomed us with open arms and have been so helpful. The reception we received at the airport when we arrived was beautiful.”
But while the Boks have enjoyed being feted by the local population, and the ever cunning Erasmus only partly with tongue in cheek hinted there was some method in the early arrival when he said he hoped there’d be a lot of Japanese support for the Boks against the All Blacks, they have been putting massive intensity into their training.
The Boks will have three more training sessions before transferring to Tokyo for Saturday’s welcoming ceremony.
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