South Africa gained vengeance for their shock loss to Japan in 2015 by comfortably defeating the Brave Blossoms 26-3 in an enthralling Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Tokyo.
Japan pulled off a stunning 34-32 triumph over the Springboks in the previous tournament but were unable to repeat the trick in their first appearance in the last eight as their dream run on home soil ended.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said in the build-up that a 41-7 victory over Jamie Joseph’s side in September provided a measure of revenge, though they secured the ultimate tonic to book a semi-final against Wales.
Makazole Mapimpi scored a hat-trick in the warm-up meeting and this time touched down either side of Faf de Klerk’s try as Japan were punished for failing to make the most of an impressive first-half display.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 20, 2019
After the high of reaching the quarter-finals, Japan were brought down to earth inside four minutes when De Klerk fed Mapimpi off the scrum and the wing breezed through the challenge of Yu Tamura to race in at the left corner.
The Springboks had Tendai Mtawarira sent to the sin bin on his 100th Test start for a tip tackle on Keita Inagaki, yet a penalty won against the feed at the scrum that Tamura slotted between the posts was all Japan had to show for their numerical advantage.
Japan continued to dominate the possession and territory when South Africa were restored to their full complement, though they were unable to capitalise and move ahead before the break.
Handre Pollard atoned for failing to convert Mapimpi’s try by splitting the posts with a trio of penalties within 16 minutes of the restart, helping the Springboks edge clear.
Rassie Erasmus’ men were far more disciplined in the second half and moved well out of sight when De Klerk crossed following an unstoppable rolling maul.
Mapimpi put the result beyond all doubt with 10 minutes remaining when he fended off Kotaro Matsushima for a second try to keep the Rugby Championship winners in the hunt for another trophy.
What a match!
Arigatōgozaimashita Japan! You guys can be extremely proud of your team! They played with honour and put their bodies on the line for you!#StrongerTogether #RWC2019 #JPNvRSA pic.twitter.com/Pg4XcBmP4v
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 20, 2019
Japan’s journey ends
Victories over Ireland and Scotland – the latter in an incredibly emotional shoot-out for progression in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis – provided the hosts with unforgettable moments they will hope help continue the development of rugby union in Japan. While they were unable to replicate the miracle of Brighton from four years ago, they can be incredibly proud of their displays in 2019.
All-action De Klerk
Sale Sharks scrum-half De Klerk dictated the play and provided a calming presence for South Africa in a difficult first period littered with handling errors. He made some important tackles to keep the Brave Blossoms at bay and was rewarded with a deserved try in the 66th minute.
Key Opta facts
– Japan lost for just the second time in their last 10 Rugby World Cup games (W7 D1), with this defeat ending a run of six straight victories at the tournament.
– South Africa have now won five of their seven Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, their 71 per cent win rate at the stage of the tournament only bettered by New Zealand (89 per cent).
– There were just eight points scored in the first half, the fewest in a game at this year’s Rugby World Cup.
– Tendai Mtawarira became just the third South Africa player to be yellow carded in a Rugby World Cup knockout game, following on from Juan Smith (2007) and Bryan Habana (2015).
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