Japan’s dream Rugby World Cup campaign ended with a 26-3 defeat by South Africa in Tokyo.
The host country took the tournament by storm after winning all its group stage matches but was overpowered by a physical South African side in the quarterfinal clash on Sunday.
The victory means that the Springboks will next face Wales, having beat France 20-19 earlier in the day, with England and New Zealand contesting the other semifinal of the tournament.
A fourth-minute try from Makazole Mapimpi gave South Africa an early lead after the winger Yu Tamura’s tackle to run in from 25 meters.
Japan strongly came back, however, began to move the ball with trademark skill and speed that has worked so effectively so far in the tournament.
Although a try proved elusive, Tamura cut the deficit to 2 points with a penalty midway through the first half, 9 minutes after Tendai Mtawarira was yellow carded due to a dangerous tackle.
Damian De Allende was denied a goal on the stroke of half time as he was deemed to have got back to his feet having been tackled, which meaned the scores remained 5-3 at the break – the lowest-scoring first 40 of the Rugby World Cup so far.
Since then, South Africa took control of proceedings.
Japan, recorded a famous victory over South Africa at the last Rugby World Cup, had little answer to the visitors’ brute force. Though the “Miracle of Brighton” couldn’t be repeated in Tokyo, the Brave Blossoms bow out of the tournament with their heads held high after having reached the quarterfinals for the first time.
The progress throughout the tournament of Japan has gripped the host nation, with record numbers tuning in to follow their progress through the group stages.
Victories over Scotland and Ireland lifted Japan to an all-time high of sixth in the world rankings, but this South African side, going in search of a record-equaling third Rugby World Cup title, proved a bridge too far.