Clinical Boks exorcise Brighton ghost as they thrash Japan
The ghost of Brighton has been exorcised. The Springboks delivered a clinical performance to beat Japan 41-7 in sweltering and humid conditions in Kumagaya on Friday to complete their Rugby World Cup preparation positively.
Four years after their shock 34-32 loss to Japan at Rugby World Cup 2015‚ a line has been drawn under that piece of unwanted history as the Boks now go into the 2019 tournament undefeated this year.
Nothing can ever take away what Japan did that day‚ but on Friday the Boks reminded everyone that they are serious World Cup contenders.
It was a masterclass in game management for all but a 15-minute period in the second half when Japan enjoyed some ascendancy.
Wing Makazole Mapimpi was the major beneficiary of clinical work by the forwards‚ scoring a hattrick with two of his tries simple run-ins after the hard work was done on the inside.
The forwards had the upper hand but were not overly dominant while captain Siya Kolisi came through a good 65 minutes‚ which included a good steal under his posts.
It was tough‚ but ultimately comfortable for the Boks‚ which is all coach Rassie Erasmus could ask for with the All Blacks looming in Yokohama on September 21.
The Boks totally controlled the match in the first half and ran into a comfortable 22-0 half-time lead built on kicking for field position and refusing to be sucked into an up-tempo game.
In the difficult conditions‚ the Springboks did all they could to slow the pace of the match and it took almost 10 minutes for their first meaningful attack.
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Fullback Willie le Roux’s raking touch finder led to a Japan lineout inside their own 22.
The Boks pressurised the Japan set piece‚ forcing a knock on and a scrum. From the scrum the Boks took it through two phases before right wing Cheslin Kolbe scored the first of his two tries on the night.
Le Roux was creator of Mapimpi’s first try midway through the half after countering off a Japan kick. He offloaded to the wing‚ who had a bit of work to do to beat the cover defence for his first of the night.
Throughout the half it felt as though the Boks were playing within themselves and they seldom put any pressure on the Japan scrum.
The one and only time they did in the first half resulted in Mapimpi’s second try.
Shattering the Japan scrum on the right of the field‚ the Boks moved the ball quickly left‚ where the retreating Japan defence was caught out as Mapimpi raced down the touchline for the third try of the match.
Flyhalf Handré Pollard‚ who had a mixed day before being substituted for Frans Steyn on the hour mark‚ landed a penalty just before half time to leave the home team four scores behind.
There would be no repeat of Brighton.
Mapimpi’s third try 12 minutes after the break was thanks to good work from flank Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ who marauded down the tramlines before putting the wing away.
That marked the end of the Boks’ dominance in the match as Erasmus introduced most of the bench leading to a scrappy final quarter.
Replacement tighthead Trevor Nyakane hobbled off with an ankle or Achilles problem‚ while flank Francois Louw‚ who came on for Kolisi‚ earned a yellow card in the 71st minute.
Japan managed a try through wing Kotaro Matsushima in the 61st minute but the Boks eased away when Kolbe intercepted from 80 metres out and replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies scored from the turnover.