‘Springboks must take responsibility for loss to Japan’

Former Springbok wing Ashwin Willemse says the Boks failed to execute their plan.

FILE: Schalk Burger keeps his eye on affairs from the back of the Springbok scrum on 19 September, 2015.  Picture: Twitter @rugbyworldcup.

CAPE TOWN - Former Springbok wing Ashwin Willemse says the Boks must take responsibility for their loss to Japan in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup.

South Africa were stunned 34-32 by the Japanese in Brighton, conceding a try in the final seconds of Saturday's match.

Willemse says the Boks failed to execute their plan.

"It was a poor implementation of the game plan. We lacked a lot of creativity and I think the ability to adapt to the conditions on the actual field definitely came up wanting. The responsibility lies with the entire squad, every single one that was on the field."

LISTEN: Springboks to bounce back from defeat

Japan dominated play and forced the Boks to make too many unforced errors, pushing them back on numerous occasions.

Ferocious tackling from Japan kept them within two points of the Springboks at halftime after driving mauls brought tries for South Africa's Francois Louw and Bismarck du Plessis, with Michael Leitch touching down for Japan.

The Japanese team scored a last minute try to seal victory in Brighton on Saturday.

Springbok vice-captain Victor Matfield said it's a tough loss to accept.

"It's very difficult, but we have to fix it, that's the only thing we can do. We've got a big game on Saturday against a very tough team."

But Meyer vowed the team's performance at the World Cup would improve.

Meyer said he still hac confidence in his team despite the poor start, adding that the only way for the Boks to redeem themselves was to go all the way and win the tournament.

The Boks' four tries were scored by Louw, du Plessis, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss.

Pat Lambie kicked two conversions and a penalty goal, while Handré Pollard added a conversion and penalty goal.

"It was very disappointing, we have let our country down but we can't keep on saying that. It was a below par performance and unacceptable," said Meyer.

Captain Jean De Villiers said, "It was a massive victory for Japan and I am embarrassed. All credit to Japan and the way they executed their win. We could never get comfortable and they always hung on. It feels like a massive shock to us and it's difficult to take it all in.

Japan's bravery and tenacity was in evidence throughout the contest, but no more so than in the dying stages. Eschewing the chance to kick a penalty that would have tied the scores, Japan went in for the kill in a dramatic late onslaught that ultimately carved the opening for Hesketh to dive over in the corner.

"We always thought we could beat them," Japan coach Eddie Jones said. "It's fantastic for the team, for Japanese rugby. We worked hard for this ... It's got to go down as one of the greatest games in World Cup history."

Japan players and fans shed tears of joy at the end of a thrilling encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout, though few, if any, would have predicted defeat for the 1995 and 2007 champions

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