Kumagaya, Japan, Sep 6 – Makazole Mapimpi grabbed a hat-trick as South Africa smashed World Cup hosts Japan 41-7 Friday, avenging the most humiliating loss in Springbok history two weeks before the serious business begins.
The last time the teams met, hitherto tournament no-hopers Japan stunned the Boks 34-32 on the English south coast in their opening game of the 2015 World Cup — an upset of such epic proportions it spawned a recent movie.
But two-time world champions South Africa, who face New Zealand in a titanic Pool B opener on September 21, overpowered the Brave Blossoms this time out to win a one-sided World Cup warm-up played in brutal humidity in Kumagaya, north of Tokyo.
“We did what we wanted to do, especially in the first half,” said South Africa captain Siya Kolisi after returning to skipper the side following a lengthy knee injury.
“Japan got better and better as the game went on but we just stuck to our guns.”
South Africa took just seven minutes to open the scoring after a bulldozing scrum, Cheslin Kolbe diving into the corner before fellow winger Mapimpi ran in two more tries as South Africa went into halftime leading 22-0.
Cajoled by the talismanic Kolisi, the Springboks continued to produce monster hits and dominate the set-piece, extending their advantage when Mapimpi burst clear to complete his hat-trick on 52 minutes.
Kotaro Matsushima pulled a try back on the hour mark, but with Francois Louw yellow-carded and South Africa appearing to wilt in the heat, the visitors conjured up two late tries to give the scoreline a slightly flattering hue.
Kolbe intercepted an errant Yu Tamura pass to sprint 70 metres for his second of the evening before Herschel Jantjies got in on the action to add a sixth try for South Africa just before the buzzer.
– ‘Positive energy’ –
“In the last couple of minutes we fought hard with a man down to score two tries,” said Kolisi, the only change to a Springboks side who drew 16-16 with the All Blacks in Wellington six weeks ago en route to winning Rugby Championship.
“Japan came back with that try and that gave them motivation,” added the South Africa captain, one of a handful of Boks players involved in the World Cup who suffered that shock defeat in Brighton four years ago.
“The crowd really got behind them and they got more ball in hand. They’re going to be great going forward.”
Japan were left with plenty to ponder before they kick off the World Cup against Russia in Tokyo on September 20.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted,” admitted Japan captain Michael Leitch, one of the heroes of that astonishing victory in 2015.
“But there’s lots of valuable lessons we can learn and we’ll look to turn that loss into positive energy before the World Cup.”
Tamura could barely conceal his annoyance.
“We got caught playing their tempo,” growled the flyhalf. “We need to improve quickly before we play Russia.”
An easy win ticked all the boxes for South Africa, whose coach Rassie Erasmus purred: “This puts us on the right track before we play the All Blacks.”