South Africa (Springboks) will play Wales in the semifinals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup next Sunday, after a day of drama in the final two quarterfinals on Sunday. The Springboks saw off a spirited Japan, 26-3 in Tokyo, while Wales left it late against France, winning 20-19.
It’s a short but storied rivalry between Japan and South Africa, almost exclusively revolving around what happened in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup. While the Boks needed to exorcise those demons, they also needed to come to terms with being the villains in this quarter-final, such was the universal appeal of the Japanese national rugby team.
Much had been made of the Japanese style of play. The Boks would need to stick to their strengths. They started with a powerful scrum, and unleashed South Africa’s own bullet train, Makazole Mapimpi who brushed aside defenders left and right to open the scoring for the Boks in the fourth minute.
It was imperative that the Boks kept a cool head, however, a tip tackle from Tendai Mtawarira resulted in a yellow card and the green and gold would be down to 14 men for ten minutes.
Of even more concern was that Japan started to beat South Africa at their own game, winning a scrum penalty and putting their first points on the board. With twenty minutes gone the match was precariously balanced.
The Boks were starved of ball possession and when they got their hands on the ball, they didn’t make it count.
It was all starting to get a bit desperate, when Damian de Allende thought he’d scored, but his knees had touched the ground. At the break, the Springboks had a slight 5-3 lead.
After the break, referee Wayne Barnes started to make a few questionable decisions. He saw nothing wrong with this challenge for the ball.
Despite all that, Handre Pollard was able to convert three penalties and extend the Boks lead. Patience would be the key in the second half.
When the Bok pack finally kicked into gear they orchestrated a driving maul right up the middle, gaining metres, Malcolm Marx unleashed Faf de Klerk and the Boks had scored their second try.
The hosts of the World Cup proved to be fallible as well. The Boks pounced on a turnover and sent it wide. Mapimpi shrugged off a dangerous challenge and had his second try of the match.
26-3 was how it ended and the Boks march on to the semifinals.