TOKYO, 18 Oct – Jamie Joseph says it is a proud day for coaches of Maori descent guiding the Japan team to their first ever quarterfinal of a Rugby Word Cup on Sunday.
On Maori coaches: “There’s a massive game for everybody involved in the Japanese team, all three coaches are Maori descent, Tony (Brown), Scott Hansen, so it’s a proud day for us to represent Japan as coaches but also for our people back home.”
On the career challenge of coaching Japan: “The players have really taken over, it’s a really good time as a coach because when you feel little bit redundant you know there’s real belief and confidence in the team and what I’m feeling is players have in the last five, six weeks grown mentally, and with those improvements the confidence is improving.
“The keys are pretty clear for us, what we need to get right as coaches is to be able to manage you guys (media) sometimes and expectations and demand on the players, certainly the fans we can do that by performing to our potential and playing really good rugby, which we intend to on the weekend, but again the players are bonded by Michael (Leitch) and Lappies (Pieter Labuschagne) and leaders have taken over so it feels so good.”
On catching world attention: “Not too sure to be honest, our boys are Japanese players, the majority don’t speak English and I assume they don’t read English – so a lot of it is through reading Japanese media and through those close to them, but internationally I’m sure it’s going overheat. I think it’s for the better.”
On Labuschagne adapting to Japanese rugby: “Lappies has been here for three years and played company rugby, he played really high-level rugby before his family and his wife decided to make a big-money move, which professional rugby players do, to Japan.
“The reason I think he made the really fast transition into Japanese rugby is probably his mind: respectful, intelligent, mentally he’s one of the toughest players I’ve coached and I’ve coached some really good rugby players over the past 20 years.
“Those are the three key qualities that come to my mind. That’s why I promoted him to captain when we needed to get Michael’s rugby right. So now we’ve got a double leadership and young and bright (Kazuki) Himeno leadership-wise, he doesn’t have the responsibility but he’s playing good footy so the trio complement each other and certainly helping the team.”
On South Africa: “Personally as an ex old rugby player, South Africa is a team that I respected the most as a player and that’s because of the close rivalry over many years between New Zealand in test matches in the past, something we got brought up with as kids.
“I really understand the rivalry and getting the opportunity to play for All Blacks three or four times against South Africa was always awesome occasion.
“On top of that you know what you’ll always get playing South Africa and that’s the sort of messages we’ve been telling the players, it’s a bit different from 20 years ago, fast and physical now, years ago was totally different, the brawls and all the stuff going on and we gained as much as we got but there was always a really respectful test matches and when the rugby was finished, done and dusted, we’re all just good mates playing rugby together.”
On match against South Africa:
“The rehearsal you allude to in September, I’m calling it a rehearsal because that match was a warm-up game for South Africa and they’ll find themselves in the unique position.
“So I’ve renamed the test match as a warm-up for South Africa and rehearsal for us and that’s something that no other team in the World Cup quarter-finals have had and I think that’s going to be a benefit for us.”
On the Brighton Miracle from 2015:
“No we won’t be drawing on that at all, in fact, I’ve been trying to forget about it for the last four years. Everyone talked about it but we’re a different team, different players.
“Yes, we got some same players but that was an amazing achievement at the last World Cup, we’re working on our own things and we won’t be alluding to it.”
On dealing with South Africa:
“What is clear is what South Africa are going to do. It’s clear because of their selection of extra forwards on the bench, it’s not unique but shows they are physically going to approach the match using their forwards and being very physical.
“Consistency of their game around giving the opposition the ball and using defence and big forward to pressure is a clear sign of intent and I guess that’s what we’ve been preparing for all the way.
“What not so clear is what we’re going to do and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
On changes to his team selections:
“Firstly (William) Tupou had an HIA in the last game against Scotland and he failed his medical so he was ruled out of selection. What we did is promote (Ryohei) Yamanaka to the starting 15 and (Lomano) Lemeki to the bench.
“On the bench, Wimpie (van der Walt) is coming in instead of (Uwe) Helu and (Amanaki) Mafi is coming in instead of (Hendrik) Tui.
“I just feel that their physicality will be a real benefit in the match against South Africa. Obviously it’s going to be a tough match out front. They are two proven characters who played and performed very well for Japan.”
On resetting after reaching the last eight:
“In some ways, we had to reset, it was a very physical game against Scotland, so we had the benefit of having a long week, there are test matches tomorrow if we had qualified second so it’s a big benefit.
“What we chose to do was to give the first two and a half days to basically refresh, didn’t put too much rugby into players if anything at all.
“So the first day was just a lightweight session, the second day was just a walk-through so we didn’t really start training until the third day. I think that will pay and has helped a hell of a lot, it allowed the players not just to get over the Scotland game but also absorb what they’ve actually achieved.”
On his team’s growth:
“I see the growth by the application off the field. We have private spaces and we’re working together to make sure they’ve got details of their roles sorted out, every night what it looks like is the whole team has six or seven computers and there’s a queue to have a look at the footy, we’re working in twos and threes.
“When we go to train, by the time I put my boots on everyone’s warmed up and basically waiting, so those are the signs that you see when the preparations are going good within the team.
“Key for us is we won’t play until Sunday night so the timing of the preparations, so they can explode on Sunday night and not Saturday night.”