Boks backline a worry as pack predictably seal win by grinding Japan down

Boks backline a worry as pack predictably seal win by grinding Japan down

It was convincing, but should have been easier as the Springboks beat Japan 26-3 in Tokio on Sunday.

They approached Japan exactly as was expected and also planned by Rassie Erasmus by scrumming, mauling and using their rush defence. But backline skills in the first half were below par when the game should have been closed down, and Handré Pollard’s goal-kicking was off the mark in 50% of his efforts.

The forwards were, however, outstanding as pack and individually.

There was only a slender lead of 5-3 after a first half where the rugby played by both sides was totally predictable. With the supporters, both those in Japan and South Africa, rather jittery at the break as the home side had won about 19% of possession, there was always the feeling that the Boks poor finishing may have given the Japan side a little confidence going into the shelter.

Three opportunities were botched by the Springboks before halftime as Japan ran from side to side, handling well and carrying the ball with very little kicking.

However, the Springboks rush defence allowed the home side little leeway with an average of only two metres gained in every one of their first half carries telling the story of the Boks defensive effort.

Turnovers followed. If man of the match (hell, who decided that?) Faf de Klerk at last had learned how to pinpoint his box kicks without giving possession away, the halftime score could already have been big.

But then this is wishful thinking with Faf!

The reality is that Japan never really threatened the Springboks tryline, and the centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am must get a huge pat on the back for their defence and turnovers at breakdowns after tackles.

♦ The game went as was expected. The home side, except for one seven-man scrum when Beast Mtawarira was in the sin bin for a tip tackle, were mostly shoved metres every time a scrum was set.

Their lineouts were also under pressure, and one particular drive of more than 40 metres by South Africa brought their second try when Malcolm Marx broke away to put de Klerk over after 65 minutes.

A concern going forward will be the continued uncertainty of Willie le Roux under the high ball. He also botched a certain try with a knock-on and a man next to him.

♦ Will this performance be good enough to beat Wales in next Sunday’s semi-final?

Who knows! Wales were also rather off the boil against France and won because of a red card to France.

But both sides will be better next week, of that one can be assured.

Scorers –

Japan (3) 3: Penalty: Yu Tamura.
South Africa (5) 21: Tries: Makazole Mapimpi (2), Faf de Klerk, Conversion: Handre Pollard, Penalties: Pollard (3).