It was 75 days of ups and downs, heat, humidity, sunshine and rain, trials and tribulations, seven wins and one defeat, 303 points, 39 tries and one trophy, standing 38cms tall and weighing 4.5kg.
In this, the third part of our RWC recap, we take a look at what happened in the second half of the Boks' pool matches and how they qualified for the quarter-finals. To read the first three installments of this series, follow these links: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.
BOKS AGAINST JAPAN…AND THE WORLD
After enjoying a two-day break, the Boks were setting their sights on the quarter-finals. But the rest of Japan were watching Typhoon Hagibis and its path of destruction, which saw the cancellation of a couple of pool matches.
“It won’t affect us in terms of training – we’re training tomorrow and then having Sunday off – and then we’ll move up to that side [Tokyo] on Monday,” said Erasmus. “Tomorrow we have got a split training session which we could do indoors if the weather is too bad. So, for us, it’s not too bad in terms of the typhoon.
“Obviously it will influence the opponents we will have in the quarter-finals, so we’re just interested in following the matches as everybody else probably is. I’ve personally never been involved in anything like this and it’s interesting to be part of it.”
After their short break, the Boks moved back to Tokyo and when Japan knocked Scotland out of the reckoning with a clinical display of attacking rugby, Erasmus could start planning for the quarter-final.
The focus amongst the local media was on their own team though and the Boks had to field many questions about Jamie Joseph and his men, Brighton 2015 and what they were expecting from the Brave Blossoms, who had qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time ever, and topping their pool to boot.
There was good news for the Boks with Cheslin Kolbe declaring himself ready for the duel with the dangerous Japanese wing-pairing of Kotaro Matsushima and Kenki Fukuoka, and he was duly included in the team for the quarter-final.
Erasmus reverted to the starting XV and replacements that beat Italy, which meant 13 changes to the starting XV from the Kobe match against Canada, with Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende – who switched from outside centre back to the more familiar inside centre position – again retained from the Kobe XV.
Erasmus said: “We have been improving and building momentum this season and we will be looking for further improvements this weekend. Japan are a well-coached team and have deservedly climbed to seventh in the world rankings. It’ll be a good challenge but we’re definitely up for it.”
According to Duane Vermeulen, who played a fair bit of club rugby in Japan before, the Boks had to be prepared for a different style of play.
“It’s not something that you’re generally used to, but luckily we played Japan five weeks ago or so we’ve experienced the style they play. They’ve said that they want to play a 50-minute ball-in-play game and that’s a bold thing to say but it’s also a good thing to chase,” said Vermeulen.
Despite a tight first half, the Springboks’ class and experience came through when they needed it most as they comfortably ended the host nation’s dream-RWC with a 26-3 victory in Tokyo as Makazole Mapimpi (2) and Faf de Klerk crossed the try-line, and the Boks kept another clean sheet.
The Springboks made 170 successful tackles – with Damian de Allende, Lood de Jager and Cheslin Kolbe leading the charge – as they eliminated Japan from the Rugby World Cup.
“We’re happy to be through to the semi-finals but we were very nervous at halftime. Overall, we were nervous going into this match; playing Japan with their home support and the way they played against Ireland and Scotland and they were definitely building momentum today,” said Erasmus.
England (40-16 over Australia), New Zealand (46-14 over Ireland) and Wales (20-19 over France) also won their quarter-finals as the RWC moved up a massive gear.