Unfortunately for Japan, their quarter-final against South Africa proved to be a bridge too far for the World Cup hosts as they fell to a 26-3 defeat in Tokyo.
The Brave Blossoms have delighted fans the world over for the last month, but the power game of the Springboks, particularly in the second half, was too much for Jamie Joseph’s side to deal with. They had their moments, including in the scrum, but it was a domineering second half from South Africa.
RugbyPass has rated Japan’s players below in what was a valiant but disappointing end to their World Cup campaign.
- Ryohei Yamanaka – 7
Yamanaka’s positioning at the back was solid for Japan and, as the game went on, he became more involved as an attacking influencer. His footwork and soft hands helped find holes in the South African defence and link play with those around him.
- Kotaro Matsushima – 6
Not the most free-flowing attacking performance Matsushima will ever have, although his defensive and aerial work in a game as tight as this one was influential. He won a number of aerial contests, forced a knock-on in the tackle and was smart in the scramble defence, denying South Africa a try from a three-on-one in the first half.
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- Timothy Lafaele – 5.5
Lafaele had a couple of flashes of his slick handling and incisive carry-and-passing ability, though they were isolated to the first quarter of the match. He was kept quiet by the stranglehold the South African defence put on the 13 channel and made a couple of poor reads in defence.
- Ryoto Nakamura – 5.5
The inside centre interchanged with Yu Tamura on a couple of occasions to good effect and his soft hands created chances for the Blossoms. He drifted out of the game the longer it went on, though.
- Kenki Fukuoka – 6
Fukuoka’s speed and footwork were electric in Tokyo, albeit in the limited opportunities he got to showcase it. If Japan could have manufactured more space for Fukuoka in the first half, it could have been a different story.
- Yu Tamura – 4.5
It was a nightmare start for Tamura who was lucky his under-kicked cross-field kick wasn’t returned for a try. He also threw a forward pass and missed the tackle on Makazole Mapimpi for South Africa’s first try, all within the first five minutes. He had some effective moments with the ball in hand, although he was also guilty of overplaying at times.
- Yutaka Nagare – 6
Nagare pushed the tempo well and was clearly in charge of his pack throughout. He helped facilitate the incisive play of the Japanese back line with that tempo, although he didn’t take any of the increasing space himself.
- Keita Inagaki – 7
The loosehead contributed to an effective scrum against the Boks, including the quick hook on attacking ball. In the loose he showcased his good handling skills, regulary shifting the point of contact.
- Shota Horie – 5
Not the best game Horie will ever have at the set-piece, missing his jumpers on four occasions, though his hooking at the scrum was solid. He couldn’t quite get his game in the loose going, as he was generally met by powerful Springbok tackles as soon as he received the ball.
- Jiwon Koo – 7
After taking a bit of a shunting in the first scrum of the game, Koo went to work on the South African unit, including working a penalty of Steven Kitshoff. He was a willing carrier, too, as he helped Japan stay competitive in the power stakes close to the ruck.
- Luke Thompson – 6
The lock contributed at the lineout and in the defensive line, without it being one of his more influential performances.
- James Moore – 6
Moore was the primary jumper at defensive lineouts for Japan and given the success the Springboks had with the driving maul, the lock’s ability to disrupt on two or three throws was important for Japan.
- Michael Leitch – 7.5
A typically industrious and all-action performance from Japan’s talismanic back rower. He was the primary carrying and lineout option for the Blossoms, as well as contributing heavily at the breakdown and offloading to keep phases alive and stretch the South African defence.
- Lappies Labuschagne – 7
With Leitch and Kazuki Himeno given licence to roam, Labuschagne helped shore up Japan offensively and defensively in the tighter confines. He wasn’t able to impact in attack too strongly, though the physicality of his tackling, including a rip in contact, were vital for Japan.
- Kazuki Himeno – 6.5
Himeno was one of the few Japanese forwards to engage South Africa in the power game. He had moments of success and failure in that, although it was a solid performance in general, with his handling skills and work rate suiting Japan’s high-tempo game.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 20, 2019
- Atsushi Sakate – N/A
Didn’t have long enough on the field to impact the game, unfortunately.
- Isileli Nakajima – 5
Was given a tough time at the scrum by Vincent Koch and coughed up a needless infringement away from it, too.
- Asaeli Ai Valu – 6.5
Added a potent carrying threat, although it was too little too late for Japan.
- Wimpie van der Walt – 6
Looked physical after coming on, although wasn’t able to influence the game too significantly in a similar fashion to the starting locks.
- Amanaki Mafi – 5.5
The loose forward was physical in defence, although didn’t add the attacking impetus that Joseph would have hoped for.
- Fumiaki Tanaka – N/A
Like Sakate, Tanaka came on too late to have a real impact on the game, with South Africa already cemented as comfortable winners.
- Rikiya Matsuda – 6
Matsuda did well, despite South Africa being in control of the game by the time he arrived. He didn’t make the mistakes of Tamura by overplaying.
- Lomano Lemeki – 5.5
Struggled to add anything after replacing Yamanaka, although the momentum had shifted in South Africa’s favour at that point.
WATCH: Highlights as Japan give second best to South Africa at the World Cup
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