South Africa crush Japan's dream with comprehensive second half performance to secure victory

Jake Goodwill
The Telegraph
Faf de Klerk was awarded player of the match for his player of the match performance - AP
Faf de Klerk was awarded player of the match for his player of the match performance - AP
  • South Africa comfortably beat hosts Japan after a close fought first half

  • The power of the South African pack told after the break as Japan were squeezed out of the game 

South Africa has advanced to the semifinals with a grinding 26-3 win over Japan, bringing an end to the home team's entertaining run at the first Rugby World Cup staged in Asia.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

The week-long hype over a potential repeat of Japan's upset over South Africa in 2015, the so-called Miracle of Brighton, was muscled out of reality by a big Springboks lineup that stuck to its attritional game plan.

With a half-time score at 5-3 it was still anybody's game. The "epic moments" of Japan's famous win four years ago were replayed on the stadium screen during the break but it seemed only to remind the South Africans of what was at stake in the second half.

Fly-half Handre Pollard landed three penalty goals from the 44th to the 64th minutes to extend the margin to 14-3 before the game finally opened up.

<span>Makazole Mapimpi put in a superb performance scoring two tries</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Makazole Mapimpi put in a superb performance scoring two tries Credit: AP

Scrum-half Faf de Klerk scooted over in the 66th after a powerful driving maul from the Springboks had Japan on the back foot, and Makazole Mapimpi added his second try of the match in the 70th to put the result beyond doubt.

Japan, which had won millions of converts to the sport for its high-intensity running rugby, was unable to cross South Africa's line.

The South Africans are now 5-2 in Rugby World Cup semifinals and will meet Wales next weekend for a place in the final.

AP

1:39PM

And his Japan counterpart Jamie Joseph

1:39PM

Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus:

1:35PM

Wales await South Africa

A titanic clash between two sides that pride themselves on physicality, hard work and defence awaits. 

Both sides possess live wire scrum-halfs and controlling 10s. A fascinating contest to look forward to.

The big question is can Wales live with this brutal Springbok pack? Japan certainly couldn't.

1:32PM

And here are the thoughts of Japan captain Michael Leitch:

1:28PM

Here is Siya Kolisi's post match interview:

1:21PM

Japan's amazing journey comes to an end

Japan just could not cope with South Africa's physical attack and their dominant scrum and lineout in the second half.

Tears are being shed by the Japanese players who must remember to recognise how special an achievement making it to the quarter-finals was.

1:19PM

FULL TIME! Japan 3 South Africa 26

And that's the game. Pollard decides enough is enough, sending the ball deep into the stands. Fair play to South Africa who dominated that second half comprehensively. 

1:18PM

80 min: Japan 3 South Africa 26

De Allende carries off the back of the scrum but is chopped down. Mapimpi then attacks down the left but he is hit hard by Matsushima. The gong has gone but the Boks continue.

1:16PM

Faf de Klerk has just been named player of the match and here is his try:

1:16PM

78 min: Japan 3 South Africa 26

Japan attack from their own 22 through Matsushima before the ball is knocked on.

1:14PM

77 min: Japan 3 South Africa 26

Another penalty to South Africa. This has been a very impressive performance by the Boks who have been the only side in the contest in the second half.

Pollard kicks the ball into Japan's 22. Is another driving maul coming?

Yes. 

Japan halt their momentum this time and the ball is released to the backs. A cross-field kick finds Le Roux but Kolisi spills the offload. That was a brilliant kick and then a deft offload from Le Roux. Shame.

1:10PM

75 min: Japan 3 South Africa 26

Scrum to Japan in a good attacking position.

De Klerk exits the field after a commanding performance.

Japan break right off the scrum and South Africa turn it over again - the ninth of the day.

1:09PM

Here is Makazole Mapimpi's second try of the day:

1:08PM

73 min: Japan 3 South Africa 26

Japan attack as they try to finish with a flurry. They deserve a try.

Labuschagne attacks down the right before Am turns it over. De Klerk takes his time befor box-kicking the ball away.

Japan run it back, determined to finish strong. 

1:06PM

71 min: MISSED CON Pollard Japan 3 South Africa 26

A difficult kick from the touchline drifts away to the right - Pollard's kicking has been poor today.

1:05PM

70 min: TTRY! Mapimpi Japan 3 South Africa 26

Du Toit steals it. South Africa have bullied Japan at the lineout - and scrum for that matter. South Africa clear and Fukuoka runs it back.

South Africa turn the ball over and attack down the left. Pollard finds Le Roux who puts away Mapimpi who runs the ball in from 30 metres out despite a high shot from Matsushima. Great finish.

1:03PM

68 min: Japan 3 South Africa 21

Lineout to Japan on the half-way line. Leitch breaks down the left before offloading.

Penalty to Japan who drive the ball into touch. Lineout five metres out.

1:00PM

66 min: CON Pollard Japan 3 South Africa 21

Simple conversion added. Game over.

1:00PM

66 min: TRY! de Klerk Japan 3 South Africa 19

The Boks drive a maul again - this time it goes nearly 30 metres. What a drive! 

Marx breaks off left and offloads to de Klerk who scores under the posts. Try time!

12:58PM

65 min: Japan 3 South Africa 14

Japan give away a penalty for a high tackle straight from the kick off. Kolbe stays down as his ankle got stuck under a defender while also taking a high shot.

Pollard kicks the ball into touch. Lineout to South Africa around the half-way line.

12:56PM

64 min: PEN Pollard Japan 3 South Africa 14

Pollard lines up another shot at goal, this time a little closer to the posts.

He just adds the three after a bit of a slice. The Springboks are pulling away.

12:54PM

62 min: Japan 3 South Africa 11

The shove comes on from the men in green but Wayne Barnes resets. Japan need to score next or it will be game over. That does not look likely at this point.

Nagare gets the ball away and spreads the play left. Le Roux nails Fukuoka driving the winger back. Japan clear through Matsuda but Le Roux claims it. 

A high tackle off the next phase gives South Africa another penalty.

12:51PM

60 min: Japan 3 South Africa 11

Matsushima claims a kick in his 22 and tries to counter. Japan are attacking from their own line with a knock-on advantage. Nothing comes of it and they will go back for the scrum. South Africa will be delighted.

12:50PM

58 min: MISSED PEN Pollard Japan 3 South Africa 11

Another scrum penalty to South Africa and this should be another three points for the Springboks.

Pollard lines up the kick from in front of the posts around 40 metres out. He missed! Plenty of distance but it slips left of the posts.

12:47PM

56 min: Japan 3 South Africa 11

Japan are boxed into their own half, their tempo has dropped right down. South Africa attack again with wave after wave of forward carrying.

Scrum to South Africa in Japan's half.

12:45PM

Makazole Mapimpi has been outstanding every time he has touched the ball 

<span>Makazole Mapimpi scored the opening try </span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Makazole Mapimpi scored the opening try Credit: Getty Images

12:44PM

54 min: Japan 3 South Africa 11

Mafi is on for Himeno who has been shut down by the Boks - they are used to big ball carrying number eights.

South Africa are in control of possession, carrying through the forwards. De Klerk box-kicks and Matsushima is taken out in the air. Penalty to Japan.

12:42PM

52 min: Japan 3 South Africa 11

Am kicks through and Japan are driven into touch. The Springboks are all over Japan, squeezing them out of this game.

12:41PM

51 min: Japan 3 South Africa 11

De Klerk's clearance goes nowhere and Japan attack. South Africa drive the hosts back - brilliant, physical defence.

South Africa turn over the ball and Pollard sends the ball high. Japan just about reclaim it and clear their lines.

12:39PM

49 min: PEN Pollard Japan 3 South Africa 11

South Africa win a penalty at the scrum and the beast celebrates like he has just broken a world record.

Pollard adds another three from in front of the posts.

12:37PM

47 min: Japan 3 South Africa 8

South Africa turn over possession in Japan's 22. Le Roux sends in Du Toit who scores in the corner but the pass is forward. The Springboks protest but it was clearly forward. Good call.

Matsuda and Nakajima are on at fly-half and prop respectively.

12:35PM

46 min: Japan 3 South Africa 8

Du Toit takes the restart high in the air - brilliant take. De Klerk sends the ball long and Himeno claim it. 

Japan's attack falls apart as the ball hits the ground and Kolber intercepts. Du Toit then knocks the ball on and Japan attack again.

Tamura kicks possession away and the Boks build through the forwards on half-way,

12:33PM

44 min: PEN Pollard Japan 3 South Africa 8

Pollard slots the three points with ease. 

12:33PM

43 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

De Klerk clears the ball long and South Africa turn the ball over. Marx holds up Matsushima - scrum to the Boks in Japan's half.

Penalty advantage sees South Africa attack right but Kolbe is hauled down. A kick is sent high and Mapimpi is taken out in the air by Matsushima - Wayne Barnes isn't interested. Back to the scrum penalty.

Kolisi opts to go for goal.

12:29PM

Here we go!

Japan get the game restarted sending the ball long.

12:29PM

A tense half awaits

Can Japan, with a nation willing them on, do something very special? 

12:22PM

Get the latest insight and expert opinion on the Rugby World Cup with our newsletters

12:20PM

Japan are in this game

After the first 10 minutes Japan have been the better side - aided by the yellow card. However, they have only come away with three points which could be costly.

South Africa have been far from clinical and will be confident they can win this game if their execution improves.

12:17PM

This is why Kenki Fukuoka has been one of the stars of the tournament - unbelievable pace!

12:16PM

The lowest scoring half of the Rugby World Cup - but still an enthralling contest

12:15PM

HALF TIME! Japan 3 South Africa 5

Another driving maul gathers momentum, Japan do not have an answer for it. De Klerk hits De Allende on a short line. The centre gets up after being tackled and puts the ball down over the line. Wayne Barnes rules he was already tackled - penalty to Japan. 

They put the ball out and that's the half. Game on in Tokyo!

12:13PM

40 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

Japan attack left of the scrum before bringing the ball back right. Tamura grubbers the ball through and into touch in South Africa's half. Nice game management.

Another driving maul is set up and this time a penalty is given away. The gong has gone but South Africa drive the ball into Japan's half.

Springbok lineout on the Japanese 22.

12:11PM

39 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

Marx is on at hooker after an injury. South Africa drive a maul forward again, steadily gaining yards. South Africa attack left and Le Roux drops the ball for no good reason just as the space was opening up in front of him. Sloppy.

12:09PM

37 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

Horie finds Leitch this time. Japan build through the phases nicely before going out the back. De Klerk reads it and kills the momentum.

Japan kick and Kolbe rises to claim it. De Klerk then kicks the ball through and Japan clear. This game is a tight one.

12:07PM

36 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

Japan lose their lineout five metres out from their line - great steal. Du Toit carries but there was obstruction. Penalty to Japan! They have escaped there. Japan hanging on in defence.

Tamura clears the penalty onto half-way.

12:05PM

34 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

Tamura attempts a third cross-field kick today and again it doesn't come off. It hits Le Roux so it will stay Japan ball on half-way.

Himeno is smashed in the midfield - the Springboks have shut him down tonight. Japan spill the ball in their half and South Africa attack.

Deft hands get the ball wide and South Africa should score. Am attempts a pass out the back door but it hits Mapimpi on the foot and rolls into touch. They butchered that!

12:02PM

32 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

South Africa pinch the lineout but they did so illegally! Playing the man in the air. Penalty to Japan who clear the ball into touch.

12:00PM

31 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

South Africa scrum just outside their 22. Scrum reset. This has become a really tight contest. The crowd is fully behind the hosts who are thriving in this electric atmosphere. 

Mapimpi bumps off Matsushima again down the left wing as South Africa force their way into the Japan half. South Africa control the ball for the first time in a while before de Klerk chips the ball through and into touch.

Lineout to Japan in their 22.

11:56AM

29 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

This is a sustained phase of Japanese pressure. Can they capitalise?

Labuschagne - back on the field - carries on the 22 line. Himeno is driven backwards and South Africa start to bring more energy to their defence. 

Leitch finds Fukuoka who just stays in play. Possession swaps side. Scrum. That was a very good defensive set from the Boks.

11:54AM

27 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

Tamura drives the ball into the South African 22. Another wrap around play off the lineout nearly comes off. Am somehow intercepts the ball before knocking on an attempted offload. Huge intervention from Am - he regathered the ball just in time otherwise that could have been a yellow card.

Scrum to Japan just outside the 22. Nagare attacks right throwing a miss pass straight to Matsushima. The ball goes loose and Pollard eventually clears.

11:52AM

25 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

A free kick to Japan at the scrum - they go quickly attacking down the left wing before switching to the right. The back row combines on the left wing making yards with ease. Japan are throwing offloads for fun - joue!

Penalty to Japan for offside!

11:50AM

23 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

South Africa drive a maul forwards before De Allende crashes through the Japanese defence. The second tackler dislodges the ball and the Tokyo crowd erupts. Scrum to Japan.

11:48AM

Here is the yellow card - are South Africa fortunate it wasn't a red?

11:47AM

22 min: Japan 3 South Africa 5

The beast is back on the field. 

Le Roux sends an up and under into the Japan half and Leitch claims it - he is everywhere.

South Africa drive back Japan into their 22 forcing Tamura to clear.

11:46AM

20 min: PEN Tamura Japan 3 South Africa 5

After a ropey start Japan are back in this game, the dream is alive and kicking. That being said they have failed to score any points against 14 men yet which they will live to regret.

Scrum penalty - to Japan! Wow! Japan drive South Africa back as South Africa fail to hook the ball.

Japan go for goal from in front of the posts and Tamura adds the three points.

11:43AM

Here is the first try of the match:

11:42AM

17 min: Japan 0 South Africa 5

South Africa clear their lines after the penalty. Yamanaka almost breaks through as he returns the kick. Leitch carries in the wide channels as his name rings around the stadium. 

Japan get it into the wide channels again. They are sucking in the South African defence before spreading it wide with ease. South Africa need to get a grip of this game plan quickly. The Japanese pace is causing problems.

Scrum to South Africa after a Japanese knock-on.

11:40AM

15 min: Japan 0 South Africa 5

Nagare fires the ball away from the scrum and a lovely wrap around play almost gets Japan away from the Springboks. Horie carries on half-way. The ball comes out to Fukuoka who gets away from the defence with his unbelievable pace.

Japan build phases in the Springbok 22. Leitch carries hard before Thompson does the same. The clear out comes from the side - penalty to South Africa! That was a big chance missed for Japan.

11:36AM

Conceding an early try is the norm for Japan

11:35AM

13 min: Japan 0 South Africa 5

Japan lose the ball from the lineout after the penalty. South Africa then knock the ball forward in the midfield.

Labuschagne is being checked and Mafi is on the field.

Nagare gets the ball away from the scrum put de Klerk pinches it. The Springbok forwards carry before a box-kick is sent towards Matsushima who claims it.

A kick is returned by Japan and Leitch hits le Roux in the air. It is ruled fair competition for the ball.

11:31AM

11 min:  YELLOW CARD! Japan 0 South Africa 5

The scrum to South Africa is once again driven forward before Pollard sends the ball into the sky.

Japan claim it and run the ball back. Mtawarira smashes Inagaki but tips his legs in the air. Horrific challenge. Wayne Barnes gives a yellow straight away - that could have been more. The TMO not involved.

11:28AM

9 min: Japan 0 South Africa 5

Tamura attempts a cross-field kick to Leitch but the balls just runs into touch. Japan are attacking with real ambition but it isn't quite coming off.

South Africa form a maul and drive forward with ease. South Africa break left into masses of space. Mapimpi carries into the Japan 22. The ball is stripped by the desperate Japanese defence.

Japan counter and grubber the ball through. This time it nearly sits up. Knock on. Frantic attack again.

11:24AM

7 min: Japan 0 South Africa 5

Japan attack on half-way through Himeno. Nakamura sends the ball high and Japan reclaim. Some kick tennis ensues. Japan need to establish some possession - they have looked a little frantic so far.

11:23AM

5 min: MISSED CON Pollard Japan 0 South Africa 5

Pollard cannot draw the tricky conversion round.

11:22AM

4 min: TRY! Mapimpi Japan 0 South Africa 5

South Africa bully the Japanese scrum driving it back five metres. De Klerk goes left and finds Mapimipi who runs through a poor tackle to score in the corner. That was a poor attempt. Terrible start for the hosts.

11:21AM

3 min: Japan 0 South Africa 0

Japan regather possession from a box-kick and attack in their own half following a lineout. A big miss pass finds Horie in pace but it drifts forwards. Scrum to South Africa in Japan territory.

11:19AM

2 min: Japan 0 South Africa 0

Himeno collects the kick and Japan attempt an audacious cross-field kick in their own 22. Wow that was nearly intercepted by Mapimpi. The ball is then cleared.

What a bold start.

11:17AM

Kick off!

Here we go! Japan have been written off by many despite their glorious pool stage form. Can they shock the world again?

South Africa get us underway.

11:14AM

Here come the national anthems

What a moment for the Japanese players at a home World Cup. Stirring scenes.

11:12AM

Will Japan's run of World Cup victories end today?

11:10AM

The players are out on the pitch

The two sides are lead out by the great leaders that are Micheal Leitch and Siya Kolisi. What a clash awaits in the backrow. 

11:01AM

Can Japan's attack cut loose again?

10:59AM

The atmosphere is building in the stadium

With just 15 minutes to go, the noise in the stadium is starting to build. A compelling clash of styles awaits.

10:55AM

And here are the thoughts of Jamie Joseph:

10:51AM

Here is Rassie Erasmus' pre-match interview:

10:49AM

Player Focus: Cheslin Kolbe

The Toulouse winger has established himself as one of the world's best over the last two seasons. Kolbe's electric footwork is well known but his power in contact and tenacious defence often go under the radar. His ability to conjure up chances out of nothing makes him a nightmare for defences.

He will come up against one of the stars of the tournament in Kenki Fukuoka. Fukuoka will not be struggling for pace against Kolbe but his footwork his unrivaled. If Fukuoka can keep Kolbe quiet that would go a long way to reducing the potency of the Springbok attack.

<span>Cheslin Kolbe has scored two tries at the Rugby World Cup so far</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Cheslin Kolbe has scored two tries at the Rugby World Cup so far Credit: AFP

10:40AM

The winner of this match will face Wales in the semi-finals after their dramatic win over France

10:36AM

The scars of the miracle of Brighton

"It was very tough to lose like that in England, that has stuck with us until the game we had to play when we got here," said Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, who was on the bench that day in 2015.

"It is something obviously we never want to go through again.

"It was good to play that game before the World Cup just to get that monkey off our back."

South Africa gained some revenge with an emphatic 41-7 win over Japan in a World Cup warm-up last month.

"Now it is a different ballgame again, it is playoffs, so we are going to have to be at our best again," added Kolisi.

"They have really improved as a team. They are a much better team than they were four years ago."

Handre Pollard is another who remembers how painful that defeat was.

"Us, as a group and the guys that were part of that in 2015, certainly learned from the mistakes that we made and hopefully we can improve on that going into this playoff series," the fly-half said.

"But it is not a big focus. We just focus on Japan and playing our best rugby on Sunday and winning, whether it is by one point or whatever, you have just got to win."

10:31AM

Player Focus: Yutaka Nagare

The Japan scrum-half has been one of the players of the tournament. The speed of his service around the breakdown along with the accuracy of passing has been vital to the tempo that Japan attack with.

He faces a stiff test today from world class operator Faf de Klerk. The Sale nine is known for his defensive interventions and will undoubtedly be targeting Nagare at the ruck in an attempt to try and slow down Japanese ball.

If Japan are to succeed today, Nagare needs to be at the forefront once again.

<span>The Japanese scrum-half is one of the lightest players at the tournament, listed at just 69kgs</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
The Japanese scrum-half is one of the lightest players at the tournament, listed at just 69kgs Credit: AFP

10:25AM

The Japan players arrived at the ground around 30 minutes ago

10:22AM

Get the latest Rugby World Cup insight with our newsletters

10:18AM

Here is the team news:

Cheslin Kolbe has returned from an ankle injury while Captain Siya Kolisi will start his third match in succession. South Africa have selected six forwards on the bench.

South Africa:

15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cheslin Kolbe, 13-Lukhanyo Am, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Makazole Mapimpi, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Pieter Steph du Toit, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Loedwyk De Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Malcom Marx, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Franco Mostert, 21-Francois Louw, 22-Herschel Jantjies, 23-Frans Steyn

Japan make one change to the team that started against Scotland, with Ryohei Yamanaka coming in at full-back to replace William Tupou, who misses out of the match day squad.

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, 5-James Moore, 4-Luke Thompson, 3-Jiwon Koo, 2-Shota Horie, 1-Keita Inagaki

Replacements: 16-Atsushi Sakate, 17-Isileli Nakajima, 18-Asaeli Ai Valu, 19-Wimpie van der Walt, 20-Amanaki Mafi, 21-Fumiaki Tanaka 22-Rikiya Matsuda, 23-Lomano Lemeki

10:11AM

Match Preview

Can Japan repeat the miracle of Brighton?

South Africa will certainly not be underestimating Japan this time around. Japan beat Ireland and Scotland in the group stages to top their pool. The nation of Japan have got behind the hosts who are expected to attract record viewing figures for this knockout clash after 50 million people watched the victory over Scotland on domestic television.

The Springboks have been dominant in all their matches since their opening defeat to New Zealand. South Africa are expected to rely on their huge pack and power game to overcome the Japanese. A contrast in styles certainly awaits as Japan's high-tempo game has proved too much to handle for defences in the tournament so far.

"We will definitely try to play the game at our pace, and they will try to play the game at their pace," said South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus before the game.

"That will be a tactical battle, and it's tough for me to say now who will be able to enforce that.

"But that will be a really big battle from the coaching staff, and the 15 players on the field."

South Africa beat Japan in a warm-up match before the World Cup in September. Japan head coach Jamie Joseph believes that has given his side extra insight into the opposition.

"The rehearsal in September, I'm calling it a rehearsal; that match was a warm-up game for South Africa and they'll find themselves in a unique position.

"I've renamed that Test match as a warm-up for South Africa and rehearsal for us and that's something that no other team in the World Cup quarter-finals have had and I think that's going to be a benefit for us.

"What is clear is what South Africa are going to do. It's clear because of their selection of extra forwards on the bench, it's not unique but shows they are physically going to approach the match using their forwards and being very physical.

"Consistency of their game around giving the opposition the ball and using defence and big forward pressure is a clear sign of intent and I guess that's what we've been preparing for all the way.

"What not so clear is what we're going to do and that's what I'm looking forward to."

A historic game awaits in Tokyo.

What to Read Next