Boks to the Future: Japan’s fairytale ends

South African wing Makazole Mapimpi slipped through two ineffective tackles on the left to open the scoring. (Reuters)

South Africa trampled all over the Brave Blossoms at home ending Japan’s stunning unbeaten run at the Rugby World Cup in the quarterfinals with a 26-3 win.

This is the first time since 2007 that Japan were not allowed to score a single try in a Cup game. The Boks were worked to the limits in the first half where they were run ragged, holding onto a measly 5-3 lead. But Japan was clinically dismantled using the Boks traditional strengths – aggressive defence, set-piece power and muscular mauling. Ghosts of the Brighton Miracle were finally buried as South Africa put paid to any hopes of a repeat of Japan’s 2015 World Cup win against the same opponents and brought to an end a fairytale four weeks for the hosts.

The Springboks will now play Wales in the semi-final on Sunday, 27 October, with the winner facing England or New Zealand in the final.
Wales reversed its 2011 loss to France with a dramatic payback: like the Dragons in 2011, the French were reduced to 14 men. And finally to cap a thrilling win, France were pipped by 1 point; losing 20-19 in the dying minutes after being 13-19 down. Wales were nursing a 1-point loss since 2011.

Escaping with the skin of their teeth, now Wales will hope to beat the Boks in semis. SA looked harried in the first half and unstoppable in the second.

While flyhalf Faf de Klerk buzzed like a bee in offense and even defense in the Springboks win, the day belonged to left winger Mazakole Mapimpi. The highlights of his day — that brought succour to the Boks.

Two Tries

Mapimpi with his brace today now has 13 tries in 12 Tests. “It was all too easy as the wing handed off normally-robust Yu Tamura and cantered in at the corner,” Independent wrote. While de Klerk scored the second, the third from Mapimpi buried the Japanese.

“It came from that man Pollard sneaking off on a half-break of his own. He found full-back Willie le Roux with a pass and the full-back shoveled it on to Mapimpi.The winger did what he has done consistently in green and got the score in the corner.”

Statement tries

Stuff.co.nz writes: “But for all their pill, the Japanese struggled mightily to make inroads into the South African defence, cut down time and again behind the advantage line and playing all their rugby laterally, without finding the holes.

And there were signs that the South African set piece was getting on top, though Japan did produce one mighty scrum to shove the Boks off their own ball and win a penalty for their only points of the half.

It had looked ominous for the home side, in front of their big home crowd, early on when South African wing Makazole Mapimpi slipped through two ineffective tackles on the left to open the scoring after just three minutes.”

It was Mapimpi who cleaved Japan open. He had tough competition in opposite number Kotaro Matsushima but he more than coped with it. The 29-year-old completely overpowered Yu Tamura for his first try and outran Matsushima for his second.

The man who had been at the centre of a needless controversy where it was alleged he was not included in was post Test celebration against Italy (he flatly denied that's what had happened), was front and centre of the quarters triumph.

Everyone is watching us now

Despite seeing his team well beaten by South Africa in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday, Japan coach Jamie Joseph was full of praise for his players and hoped they would be remembered as a source of inspiration throughout the country.

Sunday’s clash in Tokyo was Japan’s first-ever World Cup knockout match and expectations of an upset were high following four wins from four in the pool stage, achieved with a brand of attacking, rapid rugby that electrified their fans. Over 50 million people watched their final pool match against Scotland and even more are expected to have tuned in on Sunday.

Although disappointed by the 26-3 defeat, Joseph had only words of praise for his bruised but courageous players.

“I am going to celebrate the efforts and achievements of this team. There has been a lot of work from a lot people, and it has been relentless,” said Joseph, who took over as head coach in 2016. “All the credit to the team effort, because that is who we are, that is how we operate and… you can’t acknowledge one person because it has been a real effort and having the country behind us has added to that.”

South Africa, who take on Wales in the semi-finals, were simply too experienced and powerful for the Brave Blossoms on Sunday, with their suffocating defence stifling Japan’s free-flowing game. However, it was his team’s relentless effort in the final stages, despite knowing they were going out of the World Cup, that most pleased Joseph. Reuters