Japan's first four tries of the 2019 Rugby World Cup were scored by SA-born players who helped their team to a 30-10 bonus point win against Russia.
The four tries plus two penalties and two conversions made up the winners's 30 points with two tries coming in each half.
Winger Kotaro Matsushima, 26, born in Pretoria who later played for the Sharks, scored a hat-trick and had another try disallowed by the TMO; and former Bulls captain Lappies Labuschagne ran 60 metres after robbing the ball as he tackled an opponent and then outlasting the following Russians.
The Japanese deservedly won the match against Russia in Tokyo when the RWC kicked off on Friday but had to work hard against a physical side that however didn’t have enough skill, or unlikely as it may sound the fitness, to fight their way to victory.
The packed-in crowd of 30 000 brought a vibe to the game that never really reached great heights but was nevertheless played at a fast pace. Russia simply didn’t let the Japanese get their fast hands and distribution going and were in the lead until the last minute of the first half when Matsushima scored his second try to give his side a 12-7 lead at the break.
The third South-African player, Wimpie van der Walt, also had a good game, winning his lineouts and working hard at the breakdown.
While Japan will be happy with the bonus point win where their nerves were palpably evident in the unconvincing first 15 minutes or so, they need a huge step-up in their play if they hope to beat either Ireland or Scotland in their pool to advance to the quarterfinal.
Japan (12) 30: Tries: Kotaro Matsushima (3), Lappies Labuschagne. Conversions: Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matuda. Penalties: Tamura (2).
Russia (7) 10: Try: Kirill Golosnitskiy. Conversion: Yury Kushnarev. Penalty: Kushnarev.