Rugby World Cup 2019
Japan 3-26 South Africa
Makazole Mapimpi scored two tries as the Springboks absorbed all that Japan could throw at them to clinch a convincing victory in Sunday’s quarter-final at Tokyo Stadium.
The two-time champions will face Wales on Sunday 27 October at International Stadium Yokohama after the Welsh edged home 20-19 against France in Oita.
The Brave Blossoms, who were inspired by chants of “Nippon! Nippon! Nippon!” throughout from the noisy home fans, played with great fervour in the first half. But they were unable to finish off their scoring opportunities, while South Africa’s scrambling on defence was just too good.
It looked promising for the Boks at the start, as they employed their kicking game to good effect and used their forwards to thunder into the Japan pack. Their scrum was strong, too, and that laid the foundation for the opening try by left-wing Makazole Mapimpi in the fourth minute.
The Boks kept the ball at the feet of number eight Duane Vermeulen until Player of the Match Faf de Klerk found a flying Mapimpi, who bumped Yu Tamura out of the way before holding off Ryohei Yamanaka to dot down in the corner.
South Africa loose-head prop Tendai Mtawarira tried to impose himself physically on opposite number Keita Inagaki with a powerful tackle in the 10th minute, but it proved costly as referee Wayne Barnes pulled out a yellow card. Barnes said that Mtawarira had gone “beyond the horizontal” in lifting Inagaki above the ground.
Captain Siya Kolisi was replaced temporarily by front-row Steven Kitshoff in Mtawarira’s enforced absence. The Boks were under enormous pressure in those 10 minutes but they defended courageously and repelled wave after wave of attacks from the home team.
In one telling contribution centre Damian de Allende won a penalty at the breakdown a few metres from his own line, while De Klerk also read the play cleverly to make a crucial intercept.
The longer the first half wore on, however, the more the South Africans were sucked into the Brave Blossoms’ quick-tempo style of play. They were able to create few attacking opportunities, and poor execution let them down as they lost the ball a few times in contact and made passing errors. This played into the hands of Japan, who were able to reduce the deficit to 5-3 when Tamura slotted a penalty in the 20th minute.
The best scoring chance wasted by the Boks came when Lukhanyo Am delayed too long before passing to Mapimpi. De Allende thought he had scored a try just before the break but referee Barnes ruled that he had not released the ball in the tackle before getting up again.
Coach Rassie Erasmus must have had some harsh words for his players at half-time, as the South Africans displayed much greater composure in the second 40 minutes. They stuck to their gameplan of using the forwards to drive up the middle, and Pollard kicked two penalties to stretch their lead to 14-3.
Then the Boks went clear. A steamrolling maul from a lineout, which started just inside their own half and ended 10 metres from the Japan try-line, led to hooker Malcolm Marx breaking away to put De Klerk over. Mapimpi finished things off with his second touchdown with 10 minutes to go to finally put the lights out on Japan’s magical World Cup party.