An expectant crowd of mostly Japan supporters witnessed the Springboks smother the Brave Blossoms at the Tokyo Stadium on Sunday, October 20.
South Africa 26 – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi 2 and Faf de Klerk Conversion: Handre Pollard; Penalties: Handre Pollard 3
Japan 3 – Penalty: Yu Tamura
Springboks smother Brave Blossoms
Supporters of the Brave Blossoms were witnessing their team play in their first ever Rugby World Cup playoff game. Springboks supporters were anxious that there might be another upset on the cards, given the result between these two sides at Rugby World Cup 2015.
After this result though, Springbok Head Coach Rassie Erasmus might feel a little like the hunter who shot Bambi’s mom. His side have just defeated the world of rugby’s darling side. Ryan Jordan considers a few of the most significant factors that brought about this result.
The Springbok defense
To find the base this Springbok victory was built on is easy. They completely trusted their defensive abilities. The Japan team could not crack the Springboks defensive intensively and line breaks were just about non-existent. This was especially true after Tendai Mtawarira’s yellow card. They came within scoring range, but did not really look like they would score.
Aside from conceding a scrum penalty when Mtawarira was off the field, the Springboks set piece was solid. At scrum time they were solid and often put pressure on the Japan scrum. At lineout time, they retained their exemplary record and used that to put Japan under pressure with powerful mauling.
The physicality of the Springboks was always on the cards after Erasmus named a 6 forward, 2 backline player bench. After dominating the first 9 minutes of the game, the momentum shifted from the Springboks to Japan, with the yellow card being the critical moment. Japan were very much in the game for the rest of the first half, forcing the Springboks to defend with grim determination.
The Springboks came out after the half time break, 5 points to 3 up, with a lot more purpose. Their defense and the superior strength up front started to tell and the score ballooned. The Springboks scored 21 unanswered points in that second half.
Wayne Barnes wasn’t bad during this game, but there were some questionable moments. Barnes seemed to want to keep the Television Match Official out of the game, which is admirable after what we have witnessed during the tournament. However, there are times when it would be more prudent to do so. Barnes sent Mtawarira off for a tip tackle, based only on what he saw live. It was probably only a yellow card. If a post game review proved that it was a red card offence, there would be some serious questions asked about the decision and the end result.
Damian de Allende had a try disallowed for crawling on the ground after a tackle. Replays suggested that he was not held in the tackle.
Springboks wing Makazole Mapimpi, was taken out in the air after a cross field kick. To add to that, the tackle was suspiciously high. Possibly at neck level. It was a tackle and not competing for the ball. Barnes disregarded the Springboks protests, stating that no foul play had taken place as the Springboks had kicked the ball. Setting this particular example aside, let’s consider the interpretation here. If you kick the ball in the air and your chasing winger has his feet taken out from under him and he lands on his head, would that then be ok?
Where was Rowan Kitt in all of this? Has World Rugby confused the officiating team into not knowing when to do what? All three incidents were worthy of a second look, especially considering how tight the game was initially.
The Springboks were very nervous, as Erasmus stated:
“We’re happy to be through to the semi-finals but we were very nervous at halftime.
Overall we were nervous going into this match; playing Japan with their home support and the way they played against Ireland and Scotland and they were definitely building momentum today.”
Without picking the bones out of what is a respectable win, we have to point out a few areas that will need improvement. Faf de Klerk was phenomenal on defense, earning himself the Player of the Match award. His box kicking was often not contestable, allowing Japan to run back at them.
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 20, 2019
Some of the handling was poor, with De Allende and Willie le Roux being at the forefront. In a Rugby World Cup playoff game, the chicken wing offload is probably not the best idea. Again Le Roux was guilty of this, as well as Lukanyo Am.
The Springboks left a few tries out on the field on Sunday due to simple errors. Nervous tension would have played a role, but hopefully this will know be a thing of the past now that they have overcome the crowd favourites.
Springboks snare vital semifinals position
The Springboks move on to the International Stadium in Yokohama to face Wales in the second semi final. Wales will have a point to prove after coming from behind to beat a 14-man France team.
The Springboks will want to prove that they have turned a significant corner after a few difficult years and are true Rugby World Cup contenders.
In the other quarter final, the New Zealand All Blacks ran rampant over Ireland, while a clinical England put Australia to the sword.
“Main Photo Credit”
Embed from Getty Images