The Rio Olympics-bound South African men’s U23 side will face Japan in an international friendly match on 29 June as part of preparations for the Games in August. South Africa are in Group A with the hosts, Iraq and Denmark, while Japan has been drawn in Group B alongside Sweden, Colombia and Nigeria. The Olympics will run from 3-20 August in Brazil’s cultural capital of Rio de Janeiro. Coach Owen da Gama’s charges will take on Japan in the Kirin Challenge Cup 2016 at the Matsumotodaira Football Stadium in Nagano, Japan. Kick-off is at 7.30pm local time (12.30pm SA time). ‘We could not have asked for a more high profile opponents than Japan. In the last Olympics they finished top of their group and among the top four, which shows they are no pushovers. ‘We have said time and again that the only way for us to be completely ready for the Olympic Games is to face big guns like these,’ said Da Gama. ‘I would like to thank SAFA for working round the clock to secure this match, and we are working on more practice games because we want to go to Rio with a couple of matches under our belt which will put the boys in good stead.’ His counterpart from Japan echoed his sentiments. ‘This is our last match in Japan before we go to the Rio Olympics; we are really looking forward to play against a team that is also going to the Games. This match will afford us a chance to show that our team has some possibility of achieving a good result in Rio. We have to prepare a variety of tactics to play in Olympics as we are facing different oppositions with different styles,’ said Makoto Teguramori, head coach of Japan . ‘We would like to show the people of Japan how much progress we have made in our attempts to challenge the world. South Africa is a team using physical strength and from what we have seen recently, the team is getting more tactical. We don’t have too many opportunities to play against African opposition so this game will be a very important opportunity for us to learn more about the African game.’ SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan said playing Japan was part of the Association’s promise to give the U23 side all the support ahead of the Olympics. ‘We have promised that we will do the best we can to help both Banyana Banyana and the SA U23 team prepare for the Olympics. This is a very important tournament and we are aware that most of these boys will graduate to Bafana Bafana with so much experience, which will help the country and SAFA’s Vision 2022. ‘We will soon confirm more friendly matches for both teams because we want them to go there better prepared,’ said Dr Jordaan. – See more at: