Springbok winger Makazole Mapimpi scores a try during their Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash against Japan. Photo: Franck Robichon/EPA
Springbok winger Makazole Mapimpi scores a try during their Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash against Japan. Photo: Franck Robichon/EPA

Tough guys from Riebeek-Kasteel, Nelspruit and Zwide helped Boks beat Japan

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Oct 26, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – The Springboks had been “adopted” as a second team by many Japanese supporters during the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but when the two sides met in the quarter-final, things were different.

Bok captain Siya Kolisi noted during the fourth episode of the five-part Springbok World Cup documentary Chasing The Sun, which airs on M-Net at 6pm on Sundays, that it wasn’t the same friendly Japanese people he had encountered during their epic journey across the Asian nation.

“The vibe is just different. The people are not as friendly as they were before,” Kolisi said. In the third episode, coach Rassie Erasmus said that hotels were suddenly charging extra for family members, which wasn’t the case before, and Kolisi stated that even requesting extra food became an issue in the week of the quarter-final.

That kind of approach, though, came back to haunt the Brave Blossoms, as they felt the full brunt of the South Africans’ physical onslaught on the pitch. Assistant coaches Jacques Nienaber, Felix Jones and Mzwandile Stick spoke about the kinks in the Japanese armour on attack and defence, while Erasmus had just one message: “Hammer them with physicality.”

The Boks needed to find something tangible to have the right mindset to beat Japan, as they were the darlings of the tournament after wins over Ireland and Scotland, while the organisers also had to deal with Typhoon Hagibis.

Erasmus had heard enough – and it wasn’t all about the science and what happens on the pitch either. “We can’t take their comfort zone away, but we can try and f**k up their comfort zone. The Japanese are comfortable… we call it ‘They take you to the dance floor’. They want to take you to the dance floor, and we want to take them to the gutters,” he started.

“These guys do it because they want to grow rugby in the (country). F***ing we want to do it because we want to save our f***ing country. We do want to do it because we have 27 percent unemployment, we’ve got f***ing 40 murders a day. They have 120 million people, they are one of the richest countries in the world.

“When we are struggling – Pieter-Steph (du Toit), they don’t have tough farmboys from Riebeek-Kasteel and guys from Nelspruit and Zwide.

“They don’t have guys from Goodwood, from Bethlehem or Zimbabwe; they can’t turn it on and say ‘Here we are’. Most of you guys have this one thing, which is dog that you’ve got inside of you – you’re a Strand dog, Willie (le Roux). And Damian (de Allende), you’re from Milnerton.

“I want you guys to, when you finish here today on this field, when the crowd plays a part and you compare these individuals, we have to take them to that dark place.”

Makazole Mapimpi’s early try got the Boks on the front foot, but it was 5-3 at halftime, and Duane Vermeulen expressed his frustration about the amount of errors in no uncertain terms.

“There’s a f***ing sh*tload of negativity. Anyone who has something f***ing negative to say, be positive or keep your f***ing mouth shut. You can’t win a f***ing Test match like that. Be positive, or make a positive f***ing contribution to the game.”

The message was loud and clear, and then came the most wonderful moment for any forward across the globe – the 50-metre maul that started inside the Bok half, and ended with Faf de Klerk diving over.

And you would never believe how that plan was hatched – over beers in a hotel room, where the forwards and the coaches gathered to discuss mauling.

Mapimpi finished things off with his second try in which he knocked over a Japanese ‘Ferrari’, Kotaro Matsushima, which gave him great joy. “I looked around for the Ferrari and I couldn’t see him. I had pushed him over the line. But I kept looking, wanting to ask him ‘Is that you brother? Bro, where are you? Is that you? Are you a Ferrari now?’” the No 11 said with a laugh.

The shoulder injury Willie le Roux sustained against Japan was also highlighted. It played a major role in him committing a number of handling errors, with physiotherapist Rene Naylor stating that he had suffered a neuropraxia, which is damage to the nerve that caused the Bok fullback to lose feeling in his left shoulder.

The other injury problem was Cheslin Kolbe’s ankle. He recovered well enough to run freely at the captain’s run ahead of the Wales semi-final, and Erasmus said he seriously considered reinstating the speedster at the expense of Sbu Nkosi. But he was reminded by Stick that he would lose the trust of the team if he did that, while Kolbe also looked bemused when the coach had asked if he was feeling good.

The major challenge for the Boks against Wales was to stick to the kicking-based game plan, something that Erasmus had drilled into them all week. “I’m so happy this match is not played in South Africa, because after the fourth kick, the crowd will go ‘Boo!’ It’s almost like telling a kid not to eat a chocolate, and putting the chocolate in front of him,” he said.

The players adhered, and it was a brutal kick-a-thong, with the South Africans imposing themselves physically.

Then came Damian de Allende’s moment of magic, where he somehow found a way through the Welsh defence to score and make it 16-9.

The Welsh levelled at 16-16, and it was up to Pollard to land the decisive penalty, which he did from over 40 metres on the angle. Now for England in the final…

@AshfakMohamed

IOL Sport

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