Japan had set their home tournament alight with a scintillating style of organised chaos that swept them through their pool unbeaten with victories against tier one nations Ireland and Scotland.
Their fairytale run, however, ended against a formidable Springboks defensive effort that slowed the Japanese speed, while the South Africans, who only led 5-3 at halftime, relied on halfback pairing Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard to keep them pinned in their own half.
The Springboks, who scored three tries – two from winger Makazole Mapimpi – but wasted a string of other chances, will now face Wales in the semi-finals in Yokohama next week after they recorded a 20-19 victory over a 14-man France, who had lock Sebastian Vahaamahina sent off at Oita Stadium earlier on Sunday.
When is it?
Japan vs South Africa kicks off at 11.15am BST (Japan Standard Time) on Sunday 20 October.
Where can I watch it?
ITV1 will be broadcasting the match, with coverage starting at 10.45am. Alternatively, you can stream it via the ITV Hub on your laptop, smartphone or laptop.
Hello all and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of this morning's Rugby World Cup clash between Japan and South Africa.
I'll be bringing you all the live action, reaction and analysis from Tokyo - so make sure to stay tuned!
It’s the big one.
For every fan, regardless of allegiances, it’s a story that has thrilled and delighted in every measure. Hosts Japan have ripped up the script, claimed two northern hemisphere scalps, secured a first-ever quarter-final berth and now take on the side they famously felled four years ago in Brighton.
With their exhilarating, free-flowing style of rugby helping further endear the neutral masses to their cause, the Brave Blossoms head into this match with the support of much more than just the Japanese population.
The Springboks, never one to shy away from a fight, will no doubt be relishing tonight’s challenge. They remain favourites but as Japan have proved so far, always expect the unexpected from this lot.
Today's match is played against the backdrop of tragedy. After the devastation wrought by Typhoon Hagibis last weekend, a total of 78 people have been confirmed as dead. Sport will always pale into significance in the face of such suffering - which is why Japan will want to do all they can to lift spirits this evening.
I ventured up to Fukushima to visit one of the worst-hit areas in the storm. Here's my piece and thoughts on what today means for a hurting nation:
Some stats and facts to set the scene:
- Of the current players who featured in the ‘Brighton Miracle’, Michael Leitch (Japan) and Francois Louw (South Africa) scored a try in that match.
- Kotaro Matsushima and Pieter 'Lappies' Labuschagne were both born in South Africa.
- Japan can become the first Tier 2 side to win three matches against current Tier 1 sides at a single World Cup, since 2007, when Argentina defeated France twice and Ireland once.
- Japan have progressed to the pool phase for the first time at a Rugby World Cup. Since 1995, the host country always survived the group stage, except for England four years ago when they finished third in their pool behind Australia and Wales.
- Japan and Wales are the only teams left in the tournament with a perfect record (as cancelled matches count as a draw). All teams that went on to win the Webb Ellis Cup won with a perfect record.
- Japan is the fourth Tier 2 country to have made it to the quarter-finals, after Fiji in 1987 and 2007, Canada in 1991 and Samoa (as Western Samoa) in 1991 and 1995. None of those made it to the semi-finals.
- South Africa have won four of their previous six quarter-finals. The Springboks progressed in 1995 (vs Western Samoa), 1999 (vs England), 2007 (vs Fiji) and 2015 (vs Wales). They were ousted by New Zealand (2003) and Australia (2011).
- In the pool phase, South Africa put up 185 points, more than any other team in the competition (New Zealand next on 157). Only in 2007, when they went on to win their last Webb Ellis Cup, did they score more in the pool phase (189).
Crikey, Wales have edged themselves into the last four of the World Cup by the slimmest of margins. They beat 14-man France by just one point after a tense but thrilling encounter in Oita. Typically unpredictable and self-destructive stuff from the French.
Follow the reaction and analysis to that clash below:
Japan will focus on playing their own brand of rugby against the physical game of South Africa in today's quarter-final, the hosts' attack coach Tony Brown said yesterday.
The Springboks, under coach Rassie Erasmus, have returned to their traditional strengths at the set-piece and will no attempt to dominate their opponents, who aren't exactly renowned for their physical prowess.
"I think there's only one thing they're going to do and that's come and physically intimidate us," Brown said on Saturday.
"A messy game is what they're good at, they're hard to stop when they get forward dominance. Our challenge is to play our game and try to entice them into playing some Japanese rugby."
I expect the diminutive Yutaka Nagare, who stands at just 165 centimetres tall and weighs 71kg, will find himself subject to some Springboks hits this evening.
But Nagare, who is the smallest player at the tournament, has said he is ready for the challenge.
"They will come at us head-on," said Nagare. "We know, as you can see from their line-up, they'll look to make it a forward battle, play a physical game.
"We need to fight properly there of course but it's important to play the ball smartly and make it a quick battle."
"I think I'll definitely lose if I go head-on," he added. "I have to use my technique given I'm small ... and I feel they'll look to attack me in the next game, as well as near the try-line.
"But I've decided to go in determined to play with pride for this team. I'll keep my mind strong. I'll take them on carrying both mind and technique."
A reminder that these two teams met in a warm-up match before the World Cup got underway, with the Springboks cruising to a 41-7 victory.
However, Japan boss Jamie Joseph said this week that he believes that result will have lulled South Africa into a false sense of security, describing the fixture as nothing but a "rehearsal".
"The rehearsal in September, I'm calling it a rehearsal; that match was a warm-up game for South Africa and they'll find themselves in a unique position," he said.
"I've renamed that Test match as a warm-up for South Africa and rehearsal for us and that's something that no other team in the World Cup quarter-finals have had and I think that's going to be a benefit for us.
"What is clear is what South Africa are going to do. It's clear because of their selection of extra forwards on the bench, it's not unique but shows they are physically going to approach the match using their forwards and being very physical.
"Consistency of their game around giving the opposition the ball and using defence and big forward pressure is a clear sign of intent and I guess that's what we've been preparing for all the way.
"What not so clear is what we're going to do and that's what I'm looking forward to."
The atmosphere is building nicely as the two teams are put through their paces for one last time ahead of kick-off. Jamie Joseph doesn’t seem to be too concerned with what the Springboks are up to. He knows what to expect. He knows how this is going down tonight.
A big roar goes out as the Brave Blossoms, arms on one another's shoulders, led by the commanding Michael Leitch, make their way towards the tunnel for what you can only imagine will be a stirring team talk.
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