Boks bury the ghost of Brighton
MATCH REPORT: South Africa buried the ghost of Brighton, as they smashed Japan 41-7 in a World Cup warm-up match in Kumagaya on Friday.
The Springboks’ were taunted in the build-up by being reminded of Japan’s history win in the previous tournament, a 34-32 triumph in 2015.
Replays of that match was played in the Boks’ hotel foyer this week.
Not that winning by 34 points will ever take away the two-point defeat in 2015.
* RECAP: Did you miss any of the action? To recap all the Kumagaya drama, CLICK HERE!
It was not an easy match in the heat and humidity of Kumagaya Rugby Stadium. The players glistened with sweat, none more so than shaven-headed Makazole Mapimpi who score a hat-trick of tries in South Africa’s first win on Japanese soil.
The slippery ball made handling a problem, though from the very start Japan tried to run with the ball and were happy to go through many phases, none of which produced a score, as they encountered heavy tackling. By way of contrast, the Springboks opted for the kicking game – Faf de Klerk or, second choice, Handré Pollard or, third choice, Willie le Roux. The steady scoring, 22 points in the first half and 19 in the second, suggests that kicking was a better option.
The crowd pf 22 258 in the game produced interesting reactions as their hopes surged with the slightest of Japanese opportunities and was courteously silent during kicks at goal, of which Japan had one, South Africa seven.
Japan kicked off and the crowd roared. The Springboks kicked their first four pieces of possession. The fourth kick, by Le Roux, got them close to Japan’s goal-line but the home side had the throw-in. They knocked on and from the scrum the Springboks attacked, eventually going wide right where Malcolm Marx passed to Cheslin Kolbe, who stepped inside his man to score far our. From afar Pollard converted.
Japan were standing firm in the scrums and charged into breakdowns with aggressive intent. Several times they managed overlaps but long passes gave the Springbok defence time to knock them down.
When Japan tapped a penalty and attacked they got closer and closer till the visitors won a turnover on their own line. Pollard’s clearing kick was partially charged and Japan attacked again. The Springboks survived.
After the water-break at 20 minutes, Japan kicked, and it was a disaster. Le Roux got the ball and gave to Mapimpi who skipped away from a tackle attempt and scored in the left corner. Again Pollard converted from far away. 14-0.
The wing got his second try soon afterwards. A massive South African scrum, their only one of the match, and three passes to the left gave Mapimpi and easy run-in for the try. Pollard’s conversion hit the upright.
South Africa bungled two chances. First they drove a maul right to the line where the Brave Blossoms stopped it and were awarded the scrum. The clearing kick gave the Springboks a lineout inside the Japan 22 but they lost the lineout.
Just before half-time Pollard goaled a straightforward penalty against Ataata Moeakiola at a tackle. A gong sounded to signify half-time and the Springboks led 22-0.
Three penalties in quick succession set Japan on the attack. They preferred to go for tries but on the third occasion lost a five-metre lineout. The Springboks failed to clear and Japan had a five-metre scrum but at a tackle Siya Kolisi won a penalty for the Springboks.
Substitutions started early in the second half. The first for South Africa was Trevor Nyakane but he had little more than 10 minutes before limping off for Frans Malherbe to return.
The Springboks went wide left where a sweet pass from Pieter-Steph du Toit in his 50th Test gave Mapimpi the easy means to compete his hat-trick. It was Pollard easiest conversion but he missed it.
Francois Steyn came on for Pollard and was soon involved in an episode of poor handling for right-wing Kotaro Matsushima to grab the gift of a ball on an overlap. And off he went for 50 metres of sprinting for a try which Yu Tamura converted. 27-7.
Francois Louw replaced Siya Kolisi on 65 minutes. Six minutes later Louw was sent to the sin bin for a tackle infringement inside the 22. The Springboks had been warned about this but 26 minutes earlier in the match. The infringement was about 21 metres from the Springbok line. Louw was on his feet when he went to get the ball in a tackle and succeeded in his attempt. Presumably he had not allowed enough time for the tackled player to release the ball.
If this is the standard being set for the World Cup, there will be few 15-a-side matches during the World Cup.
Down to 14 men, the Springboks scored two tries, one when Kolbe intercepted and raced 86 metres to the Japan posts and the second when Japan lost the ball in a tackle and Herschel Jantjies snapped the ball up and ran 62 metres for his try. Steyn’s conversion signalled the end of the match.
Moment of the Match: Kotaro Matsushima’s long sprint was the most enjoyed moment in the match for the polite, cheerful Japanese crowd, and he scored against the land of his birth.
Man of the Match: Makazole Mapimpi with his hat-trick of tries and his efficiency on defence.
For South Africa:
Tries: Kolbe 2, Mapimpi 3, Jantjies
Cons: Pollard 2, Steyn 2
Yellow card: Francois Louw (South Africa, 71 – repeated infringements, illegally stealing the ball in the tackle)
Japan: 15 William Tupou, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Takuya Kitade, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)