Rugby World Cup Meyer welcomes break for rejuvenated South Africa

"The only team I would not want to face is Japan because it almost cost me my ... I won't go into that now," he told reporters with a smile after South Africa’s 64-0 rout of the United States on Wednesday sealed their place in the knockout stages.

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South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer during the national anthem Reuters / Eddie Keogh Livepic play South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer during the national anthem Reuters / Eddie Keogh Livepic (Reuters)
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It may have been a joke, but the way South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer answered a question about the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals showed a slight easing of the pressure on the Springboks.

"The only team I would not want to face is Japan because it almost cost me my ... I won't go into that now," he told reporters with a smile after South Africa’s 64-0 rout of the United States on Wednesday sealed their place in the knockout stages.

There had been nothing to smile about after the shock 34-32 defeat by the Japanese in their Pool B opener, but the performances have steadily improved since.

Victories over Samoa, Scotland and the U.S. have built momentum heading into a quarter-final against the losers of Saturday’s Pool A clash between Wales and Australia.

Meyer's side will be prepared for whoever they face, but he knows that the margins between success and failure in the knockout stages can come down to the bounce of a ball.

As a coach you never feel you are ready, I know we will be much better prepared but we will probably face one of the best teams in the world,” Meyer told reporters.

We were so close in the (Rugby) Championship, losing against Australia and New Zealand right at the end.

“But we’ve learnt from that. Championship rugby is about discipline and defence, you get one or two chances and you need to take that. We had a few chances we didn’t take, and we need to be more clinical and use every opportunity.”

South Africa have a nine-day break before their quarter-final at Twickenham on Oct. 17, giving the players the opportunity to rest battered bodies and rattled minds.

I believe the fact we have been under such pressure and that every week has been a must-win has been tough on the players," Meyer said. "But luckily we have a little break now.”

The loss to Japan forced a change in the team’s thinking and they have gone back to basics.

The great thing is that after we played Japan, we made slight changes to the game plan, went back to what suits us, and also mixed it up a bit," Meyer said.

We are building momentum now and the confidence is there, but we have to stay humble, because we haven’t achieved anything yet.

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