14 October 2019 09:49

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Rugby: 'Scary' how good Japan can be, warns sleepless Leitch

Japan captain Michael Leitch said Monday he would be asking for help from a trio of former All Blacks in the build-up to next weekend's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal with South Africa. "I am going to talk to Richard Kahui, Cory Jane and Stephen Donald to see how they prepped themselves," he said referring to three of New Zealand's Rugby World Cup 2011 winning team who went on to play with Leitch at Toshiba Brave Lupus. "The mental side of things will be really important," said Leitch, who admitted he had not slept following Sunday's 28-21 win over Scotland that saw Japan reach the last eight unbeaten as Pool A winners. How Japan prepare will also be crucial, he said. South Africa beat Japan 41-7 in Kumagaya back on Sept.

6 in a game that Leitch said was a step up from the Pacific Nations Cup games played in July and August. And the 31-year-old flanker said Japan had learned from the experience. "We are now used to pressure and have better concentration and awareness, so I think it will be a good game. The rematch with the two-time world champions will inevitably have people talking about the "Brighton Miracle"--Japan's famous 34-32 win over the Springboks at the last World Cup. Veteran lock Luke Thompson, however, pointed out that times have changed and the circumstances are very different now. "Unlike four years ago we are no longer sneaking in under the radar, and we have beaten two Tier 1 teams and finished top of our pool," Thompson said after Sunday's game.

"We have created history and some pretty amazing things for Japan rugby, but the tournament is not finished. Japan technical chief Yuichiro Fujii said Monday that the pressure from the Japanese public was now off the team as they had reached their goal of getting into the last eight. We will put the pressure on ourselves and then put that on South Africa." "Looking back, ever since 2011, this team has grown so much (and) it's scary to think how far this team can grow." Rugby: Brave Blossoms dedicate win to typhoon victims Rugby: Japan rejoices as World Cup hosts advance to q'finals All Blacks loose forward Sam Cane paid tribute to the success of Japan captain Michael Leitch, the pair having once been teammates with the Chiefs in Super Rugby. Born in Christchurch, Leitch has ascended to the rank of Japan captain, having played for the Brave Blossoms since 2008. With the hosts having reached the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time this year, the work of Leitch and coach Jamie Joseph have been in the spotlight, bringing an attractive style of play to the Japan side.

Speaking to media in the lead up to the All Blacks' quarter-final against Ireland, Cane was asked about what the success of Leitch and Japan means to him. "He's a special guy," Cane said. Japan Captain Michael Leitch says his team is prepared for their challenging World Cup quarter-final against the Springboks in Tokyo. Japan beat Russia, Ireland and Samoa before ousting Scotland 28-21 in an enthralling clash on Sunday to become the first Asian team to advance to the World Cup playoffs. On Monday, a day after their historic win against the Scots, Leitch said he was still struggling to comprehend what they had achieved.

'I was in my bed by about 1:30am and I haven't actually slept – I've been awake the whole time, so I'm a little bit slow today. Looking back, even since 2011, this team has grown so much and it's scary to think how far this team can still grow,' an emotional Leitch said. Japan will next take on South Africa in a quarter-final in Tokyo on Sunday. Leitch believes his team is ready to be competitive in their first-ever RWC knockout match. 'The last four games, we've been getting better each time and our confidence is growing.

It's going to be a very tough game against South Africa but we've prepared for this. The most important thing is to start from zero and build again, piece by piece,' he explained. Lock Luke Thompsom described their looming quarter-final against the Boks as a 'free hit because we have nothing to lose'. 'Four years ago we were able to sneak up on South Africa. Photo: Getty Images YOKOHAMA: After a sleepless night replaying Japan's historic Rugby World Cup victory over Scotland in his head, captain Michael Leitch has warned quarter-final opponents South Africa that lightning can strike twice. The hosts won a cliffhanger 28-21 in Yokohama at the weekend to top Pool A and reach the knockout stage for the first time, exorcising the ghosts of 2015 when they toppled the Springboks and won two more games but failed to advance. Japan's talismanic skipper admitted Monday (Oct 14) he was still a little dazed after such an emotional night. "I was in my bed about 1:30 and haven't actually slept - I've been awake the whole time, so I'm a little bit slow today," said Leitch. "Looking back, even since 2011, this team has grown so much - and it's scary to think how far this team can grow," added the marauding flanker. "The last four games, we've been getting better each time and our confidence is growing." Japan, once pulverised 145-17 by New Zealand at the World Cup, defied odds of almost 50/1 to finish top of their pool ahead of runners-up Ireland and the Scottish, who fly home early. South Africa battered Japan 41-7 in a World Cup warm-up last month, but Leitch insisted that would have no bearing when the teams meet in Tokyo next weekend. "Our self-belief has increased game by game," said Leitch, rippling muscles bulging through his black Japan uniform, and looking slightly out of place at a press conference held in a hotel chapel. "It's going to be a very tough game against South Africa but we've prepared for this," added Leitch before being ushered out to make way for a wedding. "The most important thing is to start from zero and build again, piece by piece." Sunday's victory carried echoes of 2011 when the Japanese women's football team lifted the World Cup, embodying the iron will of a nation recovering from the deadly earthquake and tsunami earlier that year. As 67,000 fans erupted with joy at the final gong on Sunday, Leitch took a moment to pay tribute to the victims of a violent typhoon that claimed more than 30 lives over the weekend, with the death toll expected to rise. "Everyone is suffering with the typhoon," he said, after Japan avenged the 45-10 defeat by Scotland that cost them a place in the last eight four years ago. Fukuoka scored two superb tries to win man of the match, collecting his trophy from Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka. "We wanted to make history and it's amazing to actually achieve that," said Fukuoka, who scored Japan's try in the 19-12 upset over Ireland. "Now we turn to South Africa and we have nothing to lose." Veteran lock Luke Thompson has described next week's quarter-final is a "free hit" for Japan. "Four years ago we were able to sneak up on South Africa," he said. Japan's Michael Leitch tackles Scotland's Magnus Bradbury during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game between Japan and Scotland in Yokohama on Oct. 13. (AP Photo) YOKOHAMA--Japan captain Michael Leitch said on Monday the potential for his side to grow is "scary" and that while the Rugby World Cup knockout stage will be a step into the unknown for the players they have the mental strength to deal with the pressure. Japan reached the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time on Sunday after a scintillating display of attacking rugby secured a 28-21 win over Scotland, making the Brave Blossoms just the fourth tier-two nation to achieve the feat after Samoa, Fiji and Canada. "Looking back, even since 2011, this team has grown so much and it is scary to think about how far this team could actually grow," said Leitch, who added that he had not been able to sleep all night after the win over the Scots. "The last four games, we are getting better each time, and the confidence is growing." After captaining the side in the opener against Russia Leitch was dropped to the bench for their shock win over Ireland, and coach Jamie Joseph has made several other bold decisions during the tournament, all of which have paid off. As well as maintaining their quick, dynamic brand of rugby throughout, Japan have also been meticulous in their planning, having a different set of tactics for each of their four pool matches. The results are plan to see--Japan finished top of Pool A with four wins from four. Leitch said a large part of that was down to Joseph and the leadership team he has assembled, which includes himself, flanker Pieter Labuschagne and flyhalf Yu Tamura. I returned to the bench and (he) changed the match captain to Labuschagne," said Leitch, who made his Japan debut in 2008 The results have been consistent too, with Japan winning seven of their last eight matches. However, that one loss came against quarterfinal opponents South Africa, a 41-7 drubbing in their final World Cup warm-up match last month. South Africa will need no additional motivation to hand out another thrashing to Japan, who delivered the biggest shock in rugby history when they defeated the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup. Leitch said he would reach out to some of his former club teammates, including 2011 World Cup winning All Blacks Cory Jane and Stephen Donald, for their advice on how to deal with the knockout stages. "I would like to have a word with them in terms of how they have done and dealt with being in knockout matches," said Leitch. "Honestly, our mentality will be important, but since Japan is hosting the tournament, I have a strong feeling that we will want to show a good game to the Japanese again.