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Brutal Boks burst Brave Blossoms' bubble

South Africa ease past Japan to reach semi-finals

South Africa shattered Japan's dreams of reaching the World Cup semi-finals with a pulsating 26-3 victory in Tokyo yesterday to set up a blockbuster last-four clash with Wales.

A double from wing Makazole Mapimpi broke the hearts of the Brave Blossoms, whose run to the knock-out stages has earned respect around the rugby world and lit up the first World Cup in Asia.

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Japan famously beat South Africa 34-32 at the last World Cup in an upset dubbed the "Miracle of Brighton", but yesterday's match in Tokyo was far more comfortable for the two-time world champions.

"We're really proud with what we've achieved at the World Cup," said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

"I'm just disappointed for the players because they give so much to the group and they give so much to the country."

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus had staked out his intent by picking six forwards on the bench and the win was built on a dominant performance up front and a ferocious defensive effort.

"We want to try and go all the way. Obviously, now we've got Wales, they're ranked higher than us, they've got a win against France this weekend," said world No. 4 South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus, on their third-ranked opponents.

The Springboks were on the scoresheet with just three minutes on the clock. The powerful South African pack drove Japan back in the first scrum, leaving Mapimpi with a one-on-one for the line.

The 29-year-old had been Japan's main tormentor with a hat-trick in a 41-7 warm-up victory two weeks before the World Cup and he was a handful again, running straight through fly-half Yu Tamura to dot down.

The under-pressure Japanese scrum got 10 minutes' respite when prop Tendai Mtawarira was sent to the sin-bin for a tip tackle on his opposite number Keita Inagaki - with the "Beast" perhaps fortunate not to see red.

Roared on by chants of "Nippon! Nippon!" from the passionate home crowd, the Japanese threatened the South Africa line, but were kept out by a series of thumping tackles.

But Japan won a penalty at scrum time, which Tamura slotted in front of the posts to make it 5-3.

The Springboks came out of the break firing on all cylinders and two Handre Pollard penalties in the first 10 minutes of the second half settled the nerves of the travelling Springbok fans.

A high tackle on Springbok scrum-half Faf de Klerk, who seemed to be everywhere, saw Pollard score his third penalty.

It was fitting that Man of the Match de Klerk ended the game as a contest, racing in under the posts after a monumental rolling maul that went nearly half the length of the pitch.

The pacey Mapimpi then gave the win some gloss with his second score in the corner with less than 10 minutes to go. - AFP


Saturday: England v New Zealand

Sunday: Wales v South Africa