Japan 3-26 South Africa: Rugby World Cup quarter-final report, match highlights and scorers

South Africa players celebrate
South Africa players celebrate

South Africa will face Wales in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals after beating hosts Japan 26-3 in a tough quarter.

Japan 3-26 South Africa

Japan tries:
Japan conversions:
Japan penalties: Tamura

South Africa tries: Mapimpi (2), de Klerk
South Africa conversions: Pollard
South Africa penalties: Pollard (3)

Match highlights

Japan vs South Africa (3-26) | Rugby World Cup 2019 Highlights


Match report

South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira was lucky to escape a red card as the Springboks bludgeoned past hosts Japan 26-3 to book a World Cup semi-final with Wales.

'The Beast' Mtawarira upended Keita Inagaki midway through the first-half and was sin-binned for the crude tackle.

But referee Wayne Barnes reached immediately for a yellow card, opting not to refer the decision to Television Match Official (TMO) Rowan Kitt.

Inagaki landed on his head, leaving Japan frustrated with the level of punishment delivered to Mtawarira.

Makazole Mapimpi bagged a brace and Faf De Klerk also raced in, with Handre Pollard posting 11 points off the tee as South Africa squeezed the life out of the Brave Blossoms.

So just when Japan thought they could shock the rugby world for a third time in five weeks the Springboks rolled up their sleeves and flexed sufficient muscle to subdue Jamie Joseph's men.

Where Japan conjured the miracle of Brighton by edging out South Africa 34-32 in 2015, here on home turf the Brave Blossoms fell prey to a brutalising by the Boks.

The world's newest favourite team found precious few answers when South Africa stuck the ball up their jumper, killing the game with a rampant driving maul for De Klerk's try.

Japan might have downed Ireland 19-12 and ploughed past Scotland 28-21, but the hosts wilted in the Southern Hemisphere onslaught.

Now the Boks will face Warren Gatland's Wales in Yokohama on Sunday, in a bid to reach their first final since 2007.

The tournament burst into life with a breathless group stage encounter between South Africa and New Zealand, that the back-to-back world champion All Blacks won 23-13.

There remains every chance the World Cup could finish just as it began then, with both South Africa and New Zealand appearing dangerous in attack and resolute in defence.

Japan ultimately never recovered from a horror-show start.

The Boks exposed Tamura defending blindside from a scrum, and left the fly-half with nowhere to hide.

De Klerk fed Mapimpi and the powerful wing stormed over the top of Japan's playmaker and over the line for a near-immediate opening score.

Japan recovered and dominated possession throughout the first-half, but could not find a way onto the scoreboard barring a penalty for Tamura.

Not even Mtawarira's yellow card and a 10-minute one-man advantage could help Japan find a chink in the Springboks' hugely-impressive defensive armour.

Flying wing Kenki Fukuoka so nearly scorched clear when skinning South Africa's own pace ace Cheslin Kolbe, but the Boks recovered and snuffed out the danger.

Fukuoka is due to retire after the World Cup to seek a career in medicine, but the 27-year-old boasts the fastest feet in the Far East and would be a huge loss to the world game should he hang up his boots prematurely.

South Africa could only take a 5-3 lead into the interval but eventually ground down the hosts after that break.

Pollard slotted three from four penalty attempts as Rassie Erasmus' side inched their way to victory.

And when De Klerk scampered over after that stunning driving maul, the match was over with a quarter-hour still on the clock.

Mapimpi still had time to blast clear and home for his second of the night, to close the game in style.

And so Japan's adventure came to a gruelling close not befitting with the audacious attacking elan that so lit up this tournament.

But even in defeat they can hold heads high and look to a big future.

The Boks meanwhile will be very seriously eyeing a third world title.

Match reaction

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus believes adding Japan to the Rugby Championship would be an "interesting" proposition but fears logistical hurdles will make it impossible.

The hosts lit up this year's World Cup with a string of daring displays before crashing out to the Springboks in Tokyo.

While Erasmus' team are now looking forward to a semi-final showdown with Wales next Sunday following their 26-3 triumph, the Brave Blossoms face a return to the outer limits of the global game.

As a Tier Two outfit, Japan compete annually in the Pacific Nations Cup and the Asia Rugby Championship but there are already calls for them to be admitted to the Rugby Championship to boost their development with regular clashes against New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

But Boks coach Erasmus is not convinced the idea will take off.

He said: "It would be interesting, I think it's a good debate to have. Their style of play would be something interesting.

"But then all the questions, the weather, possible problems and solutions, positive and negative, I just wouldn't know that. I haven't really put my thinking hat on about that.

"It looks like a good proposition, but then it comes to whether it's logistically and financially possible, would it make sense in broadcasting, travel-wise?

"I do know the brand they play is exciting and they would really fit in. But apart from that I'd be stupid to comment because I'm not part of those discussions."

Japan were looking to repeat their shock win over the Springboks from four years ago.

Their relentless pace and energy in attack has already tripped up Ireland and Scotland in this year's competition but Erasmus sent out his heavy hitters and succeeded in overpowering their smaller opponents.

Giant prop Tendai Mtawarira was lucky not to be sent off for a shocking dump tackle on opposite number Keita Inagaki and with that let-off the South Africans grunted their way to victory after Makazole Mapimpi scored either side of a Faf De Klerk try.

The final scoreline was harsh on Japan but coach Jamie Joseph could not fault his Brave Blossoms.

"I'm just really proud of the Japan team and all the players," he said.

"We've had massive support, the players understood that and it really helped us.

"Sometimes home advantage can work against you but the support has been fantastic.

"The last five minutes of that Test match showed what type of team this is. We were down by 20-odd points but we still had the never-say-die attitude. People just kept on getting up.

"We refused to lie down and I'm really proud of that as a coach. And that's something that can help us move forward after this World Cup.

"I can't tell you anything about what's next but I know Japanese rugby is in a good place now.

"The players and the brand of rugby they've been playing, it's inspiring. The only difference now is everyone is watching us.

"The rugby hasn't changed, but now there's been an audience. It's created a voice for the team in that respect and hopefully that will give momentum for Japanese kids, and that's ideal."

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