South Africa bury Japan with 26-3 win in RWC 2019
The fairytale run hit a South African wall.
Heading into the game, Japan won every single pool game to enter the knockouts for the first time ever and rose to an all time high of sixth in global rankings thanks to Australia's defeat against England. Four years ago, at the 2015 World Cup, the Springboks were handed a stunning 34-32 defeat at the hands of Japan in a game dubbed the 'Brighton Miracle' and South Africa made sure there would be no repeat in Tokyo today.
After an opening game loss against New Zealand, the South Africans recovered well to dominate Namibia, Italy and Canada. The winner of this tie would face off against Wales in the semi final next week.
South Africa 26-3 Japan
The game kicked off as Japan looked to extend their dream run and keep a nation's hopes alive after becoming the first Asian country to qualify for the knockouts of the Rugby World Cup.
Four minutes in and South Africa grabbed the perfect start to the game – after overcoming Japan in the scrum, the Boks flicked it wide to Makazole Mapimpi who pummelled through the Japanese defence to touch down in the corner.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 20, 2019
11 minutes in and South Africa found themselves temporarily a man down after Tendai Mtawarira wrestled Keita Inagaki down on his neck and was sin-binned for his efforts.
19 minutes in and Japan earned a penalty for their efforts, drawing a deafening cheer from the home crowd. Yu Tamura stepped up and added three points for a score of 5-3.
34 minutes into the game and South Africa looked certain to extend their lead as Mapimpi was clear on the left but the wing let slip the ball after a sloppy offload by Lukhanyo Am.
42 minutes in and South Africa thought they had a try as Damian de Allende rumbled over the line to score but it was later ruled out after Wayne Barnes adjudged that he was held.
Halftime arrived bringing an end to a low-scoring but tightly contested half of rugby.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 20, 2019
The second half kicked off and early on, South Africa got going with a penalty. Handre Pollard stepped up and added three points for his side as the score read 8-3.
49 minutes in and and another penalty came South Africa's way and once again, Pollard slotted the ball through as the Boks began to inch away from the hosts.
For all the momentum that Japan started with, it had dissipated by this stage of the game. SA were shutting them down at every opportunity with their physicality suffocating the Japanese creativity.
Nearly 60 minutes in and another penalty arrived for the Springboks, but the Japanese were left relieved after Pollard skewed his shot left of the target to keep the score at 11-3.
Into the final quarter of the game, South Africa got yet another penalty and this time Pollard made no mistake to extend SA's lead by 11 points for a 14-3 score. Japan's hopes of a first ever semifinal began to ebb away.
65 minutes in and Faf de Klerk banged in from close range after a sensational rolling maul by the Springboks to get into the Japanese 22. Pollard converted for a score of 21-3 with the contest seemingly buried.
70 minutes in and South Africa put the result beyond doubt after stealing the line out 5m from their own line, before switching the play out wide to Mapimpi who steamed past Kotaro Matsushima to touch down. 26-3 the score read as it became clear that South Africa would be meeting Wales in the semis next week.
And so it finished in Tokyo.
The Brave Blossoms have won hearts and united a nation in their run towards an unprecedented quarterfinal but on the day when they came up against a sturdy South African side, they just had no answers. They can have no regrets about their performance, they just came up short against a better side. Nevertheless, Jamie Joseph's side have been an absolute joy to watch and they will look to capitalise on the progress they made in this tournament to come back stronger in four years' time.
— Will Carling (@willcarling) October 20, 2019
The Boks meanwhile missed a number of clear try opportunities throughout the game and should've been more clinical with the chances they had. Regardless, coach Rassie Erasmus will be pleased with his side's professional, gritty and physical performance – they continuously kept Japan at bay winning turnover after turnover. Whether they're good enough to beat New Zealand or England remains to be seen. For now, they've got a date with Warren Gatland's Wales next week for a shot at the final.