Rassie Erasmus felt the scoreline in South Africa’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final victory over Japan was not a true reflection of how the game played out.
The Springboks progressed to a last-four meeting with Wales by vanquishing the demons of their shock loss to the Brave Blossoms in the 2015 World Cup with a 26-3 triumph in Tokyo on Sunday.
Makazole Mapimpi, who scored a hat-trick in a 41-7 win over Jamie Joseph’s side in a warm-up match in September, put the Rugby Championship winners ahead after four minutes but Japan dominated the possession and territory in the rest of the opening period.
However, the hosts were only able to register three points from the boot of Yu Tamura while Tendai Mtawarira was in the sin bin for a tip tackle on Keita Inagaki and went into the break 5-3 down.
The Springboks showed greater discipline and control in the second period, with Handre Pollard nudging them clear via a trio of penalties before Faf de Klerk and Mapimpi crossed in the final 14 minutes to put them out of sight.
Erasmus said: “In both games we played [against Japan] the score doesn’t reflect how tough it was. At half-time it was 5-3 and then we got one or two runaway tries.
“This was a five- or six-point game – the margin we got at the end wasn’t a true reflection.
“They were very determined. Their substitutions made a hell of a difference. This Japanese team is well coached, they’re fit, they’re tough, they’re tight and they’ve got great support, so at the end of the day we must be satisfied with the win.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 20, 2019
The Springboks were guilty of excessive handling errors in promising areas in the opening period but Erasmus praised Japan’s defence as he set his sights on the Webb Ellis Cup.
“It was frustrating, we had two or three tries in the first half that because of knock-ons we didn’t score, which could’ve taken it away from them,” added the South Africa boss.
“But then again the way they defend and the way they scramble, it just shows the character of their team.
“We want to try to 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 will start tomorrow on them, but we’ll enjoy tonight and know the next two weeks will be tough.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 20, 2019
Captain Siya Kolisi was impressed by the fight Japan put up and was proud of his team for keeping things close in a tough first half for South Africa.
“We knew what Michael Leitch and his boys were going to bring today. They said all week they were coming for us in our set-piece and it took a lot out of us to keep on fighting,” said Kolisi.
“But credit to my boys, we fought, we ground it out. You really should be proud of your team, they gave it everything out there.
“We knew how fast they can play the game and they play a style that’s fearless and that’s exactly what they said they’d do this week and they didn’t shy away from it today.
“We knew we had to get up, especially when we were one man down – I’m really glad the boys didn’t concede a lot of points there. That’s what we pride ourselves on, hard-working defence.”
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