Bloody-minded South Africa squeeze the life out of Japan and progress to the World Cup semi-finals

2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter-final: Japan 3-26 South Africa


Played – 3

Japan wins –1

Ireland wins – 2

Most Recent Meeting – Japan 7-41 South Africa

Most of us will remember Japan rocking the Boks in 2015, when Karne Hesketh’s late try secured the Miracle of Brighton – a 34-32 shock to rugby’s system.

But in the build-up to this World Cup, the two sides played again, in Kumagaya. The Springboks scored six tries to Japan’s one, dominating despite a yellow card for cynical play for Francois Louw late on. Makazole Mapimpi got a hat-trick, while Kotaro Matsushima got a consolation try.

The match was also notable for the Boks for deliberately practicing a certain style of game, kicking ball away so they could work on their defending.

Did you know?

  • Japan are playing in their first ever quarter-final.
  • South Africa have never failed to make it out of the pool in a World Cup.
  • Coming into the quarter-finals, Kotaro Matsushima has scored the most tries in test matches in this calendar year, with nine.
  • South Africa’s have won 20 matches and lost four in northern hemisphere World Cups. One of those four was against Japan, in Brighton.
  • Handre Pollard is  South Africa’s all-time leading point-scorer, ahead of Percy Montgomery.
In a nutshell
They made us wait for their strike, using brutal forwards and a monstrous maul, but South Africa are through to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
The hope was that they would physically hammer the hosts, and they did come out on top, but it took an hour to break them down. But they built a score and in a game of fine margins and stubborn play, it was sensible stuff from the South Africans.
Japan have been incredible in this world Cup and no matter what come out of the tournament with credit, but their race was run and it felt at times during this game that they were sprinting to stand still. For all the movement and hard carries, South Africa soaked it up and rebounded the energy back on the Japanese.
The first Springboks try came straight off first phase at set-piece time as Faf de Klerk fed Makazole Mapimpi. The wing shoved a hand-off at Yu Tamura, created the space and powered to the line.
It will be mentioned in the coming days that South Africa could have been down to 14 men for the duration of the game, had the officials decided that Tendai Mtawarira’s tip tackle on opposite number Keita Inagaki at the ten-minute mark was more malicious than just a yellow-card. Wayne Barnes opted only to go for a sin-binning, though, and the hosts could only Related: Should Tendai Mtawarira have gotten a red card?
There were plenty of kicks and more than a few knock-ons during a period of harem-scarem stuff and Lukhanyo Am butchered a certain score, but South Africa were happy to bide their time.
Handre Pollard chipped away with penalty kicks and when Faf de Klerk was sent racing through for a second try off the back of a scary-strong maul, the Japanese resolve was gone.
2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter-final

At the double: Wing Makazole Mapimpi on the attack (Getty Images)

They have been a breath of fresh air all tournament, keeping us all guessing and hitting every run as hard as humanly possible. But the counter-attacking game of South Africa relished in that. Mapimpi’s second try was testament to this. Captain Siya Kolisi went in hard on a ball-carrying Asaeli Ai Valu and from the spilled ball. Pollard hit Willie le Roux and the full-back checked it off to his back-three mate. The lethal Mapimpi was set free again. He bounced away down the touchline, scoring to make it 21 unanswered points for the Boks.
Japan stuck at it but this was as clinical as it gets.
Sunday was a nervy old day, but the South Africans wilkl be confident heading into their semi with Wales.
Star man
Sometimes you have to appreciate the numbers. Mapimipi is now joint-top try scorer in this competition, with five scores, and he looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.

For all the physical exertions of the pack, Mapimpi did as much as anyone to suck defenders in and he looks hungry.Handre Pollard deserves credit for guiding his Boks side through this one calmly, and 11 points is a solid showing – he kept the scoreboard ticking over. But in a game all about control, the brief moments of excitement Mapimpi created are worth a nod.

The Reaction

Japan coach Jamie Joseph: “At half-time the boys were a bit down there were a few niggles in our group, but, at the end of the day, I am just so proud of my team – the courage, the tenacity the sheer determination those last two tackles show just how tight a group we are and I really must take my hat off to the team.”

“Secondly, I’d really like to thank the fans. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the support of the whole country, they have been absolutely marvelous.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved at the World Cup, we’ll accept that, we’ll enjoy that a little later on but I’m really disappointed for the players because they give so much to the group and they give so much to the country at this World Cup, I’m just a little disappointed.”

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus: “We’ve come a bit but we want to try and go all the way. Now we’ve got Wales they are ranked higher than us and they got a win against France this weekend, we’ll start tomorrow on them, but we’ll enjoy tonight and we know the next two weeks will be tough.”

The Teams

Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka (Lomano Lemeki 59), Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka; Yu Tamura (Rikiya Matsuda 47), Yutaka Nagare (Fumiaki Tanaka 71); Keita Inagaki (Isileli Nakajima 47), Shota Horie (Atsushi Sakate 72), Jiwon Koo (Asaeli Ai Valu 63), Luke Thompson (Wimpie van der Walt 54), James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain), Pieter Labuschagne (Amanaki Mafi 11), Kazuki Himeno.

Pen: Tamura 20.

South Africa: Willie Le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe (Frans Steyn 71), Lukhanyo Am, Damian De Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf De Klerk (Herschel Jantjies 73), Tendai Mtawarira (Steven Kitschoff 54), Bongi Mbonambi (Malcolm Marx 37), Frans Malherbe (Vincent Koch 54), Eben Etzebeth (RG Snyman 62) 62), Lood De Jager (Franco Mostert 66), Siya Kolisi (captain) (Steven Kitschoff 11), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen (Francois Louw 67).

Try: Mapimpi 4, 70, De Klerk 66. Con: Pollard 66. Pen: Pollard 44, 48, 64.

Yelow card: Mtawarira 10.

Related: The weather forecast for the quarter-finals

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