TOKYO, 17 Oct - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has been generous with his praise of the Japan team during the past few days, but it is the pride of his own nation that occupies his thoughts now.
South Africa's quarter-final against the host nation at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday has all the signs of a fascinating match-up.
Erasmus is braced for a full house of supporters cheering on the local heroes but wants his players to think about the thousands of people back home who will be watching from afar.
"I have complimented Japan a lot this week, and not for any other reason than to be sincere. We have a lot of respect for the way they have hosted," Erasmus said.
"We know when we play on Sunday, we won’t find a hostile crowd, because they are very passionate and respectful. But it will be an intimidating atmosphere – we totally understand that.
"But we are a very proud nation, and we are a country with a lot of challenges. We want to represent our country with a lot of pride.
"In our country, things do not always run fluid. We know when we play, we are representing much more than those 23 guys on the field.
"When we run out there, we know there won’t be a lot of South African supporters in the crowd, but there will be a lot sitting back home. And we will be playing for them as well.”
Erasmus believes South Africa are favourites to win but is wary of a Japanese side that has excelled so far.
"If you talk about Japan, they fully believe they can beat us. If you ask their coach Jamie (Joseph) if they can beat us he will say, deep down in his heart, 'they are the favourites',” Erasmus said.
"I think we are the favourites. I’m not one of those coaches who sits here and says to you, 'we are not really sure’, because we prepare to win.
"That doesn’t make it any easier to win, but we analyse and prepare to be as ready as we can. I’m 100 per cent sure Jamie does the same, and his team feel deep down inside they can beat us."