Rugby365

The Springboks booked their place in the World Cup semifinals with a 26-3 win over Japan in their quarterfinal on Sunday.

Makazole Mapimpi scored two of the Boks’ three tries in a match where the Japanese were kept tryless in the 80 minutes.

From this match two things are clear: Japan deserved to be in the quarterfinal and South Africa deserve to be in the semifinal.

What Japan achieved at this World Cup has been wonderful beyond dreams – the organisation, the participation, the warmth and hospitality, the sense of fun, the respectfulness – all of that and then the performance of their team who clearly deserved to be playing with the big boys.

That said, it may also well be true that the score flattered Japan at the end of this match. In the first half, in which at one stage Japan had 81% of possession, the Springboks had three gilt-edged opportunities to score tries to add to the one chance that they took while Japan had no real chances to score tries. In the second half Japan’s possession diminished and tries became an even more remote possibility. Even in that second half the Springboks butchered at least one likely try.

The score could well have been far larger. But it was not, and rightly so. If you cannot catch and pass, tries become impossible.

After the drums were banged, the sympathetic silence perfectly observed and the anthems were sung, it seemed that the Springboks were going to be a typhoon too many for Japan. At the first scrum, the Springboks shoved Japan back and Faf de Klerk played to Makazole Mapimpi on the short side. The eager wing crashed past Tu Tamura, who had been brought across to mark him, and then beat fullback Ryohei Yamanaka for an excellent try in the left corner. That made the score 5-0 after 4 minutes.

It took another 39 minutes before South Africa scored again.

Not long after the try, Tendai Mtawarira lifted Keita Inagaki up in a tackle and tipped him over. For that Mtawarira was sent to the sin bin. It was South Africa’s first yellow card at the 2019 Rugby World Cup/.

Japan dominated possession, seemed able to get overlaps for their outside me and used some clever kicks. The nearest they came to scoring was when Kenki Fukuoka had room on the left, got away from Cheslin Kolbe and beat Willie le Roux, but Damian de Allende jumped on him and prevented the try.

Japan’s only score in the half was a penalty at a scrum when Japan applied pressure and Bongi Mbonambi could not get his foot up to hook. Tamura goaled. 5-3 after 19 minutes.

After Mtawarira returned to play, South Africa started getting on top. That had a 3-vs-1 situation but Lukhanyo Am’s attempt to get the ball to Mapimpi was execrable.

They had another chance killed when Le Roux knocked on a perfect pass from Kolbe.

On the third occasion, the Springboks mauled a lineout and De Allende charged ahead. Knocked over he went over near the posts but was penalised for crawling.

That made the half-time score 5-3.

Twice early in the second half, Japan were penalised at scrums and twice Pollard goaled to make the score 11-3, and the Springboks could have scored a try when Pieter-Steph du Toit was over in the right corner but for a forward pass to him by Le Roux.

The Springboks were on top now and Japan started making changes early.

When tall James Moore of Japan tackled short Faf de Klerk high, Pollard goaled again and it was 14-3.

Then came a remarkable maul. More and more the Springboks were able to exert physical domination over the Japanese, which was always going to be their tactic.

From a lineout about five metres inside their own half, they drove a match downfield to about 10 metres from the Japanese line where Malcolm Marx broke from the maul and gave to De Klerk who scored near the posts. 21-3 with 15 minutes to play.

The Springboks long-range third try was their best. Japan threw into a lineout about 12 metres inside the Springboks half and on their right. Du Toit won the throw and the Springboks immediately went left. Pollard broke and Le Roux ran ahead before giving to Mapimpi who sped 25-metres to score. It was a Japanese-esque try and made the score 26-3 with about 10 minutes to play.

When the final whistle went, the Springboks were attacking.

Just an aside: a kick becomes a good kick when and where you next get the ball. The Springbok scrumhalves kicked 15 “box kicks” and Japan got possession from all of them.

Man of the Match: Defence was a huge part of the South African victory. Our Man of the Match, Damian de Allende played a strong part in defence, including tackling and winning a crucial turnover. He also showed that he can be an enabling attacker.

Moment of the Match: That long marching maul that led to Faf de Klerk’s try.

Villain of the Match: Tendai Mtawarira for that tip tackle that earned a yellow card. He knows better.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Pen: Tamura

For South Africa:
Tries: Mapimpi 2, De Klerk
Con: Pollard
Pens: Pollard 3

Yellow card: Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa, 10 – foul play, tip tackle)

Teams:

Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Lomano Lava Lemeki.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)