September 6, 2019 / 2:30 PM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 1-Rugby-South Africa crush Japan in final World Cup warm-up

* Springboks score six tries in easy win

* Mapimpi, Kolbe take advantage of Japanese errors

* World Cup starts in two weeks (Updates with details, quotes)

By Jack Tarrant

KUMAGAYA, Japan Sept 6 (Reuters) - A hat-trick of tries from Makazole Mapimpi led South Africa to a comfortable 41-7 victory over Japan on Friday in their final World Cup warm-up match, laying down a tournament marker and gaining revenge for defeat four years ago.

Japan’s famous 34-32 victory at the 2015 World Cup had dominated the build-up to Friday’s clash but the hosts were never in the contest as South Africa pounced on sloppy handling and play at the breakdown.

Ahead of the World Cup opener against old rivals New Zealand on Sept. 21, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, who named a strong side, was pleased with the test provided by the Japanese.

“We played against a very strong Japanese team, which we wanted to play against before we played against the All Blacks and we got exactly what we expected,” said Erasmus.

“Luckily we didn’t get a lot of injuries and we think now this puts us on the right track before we play the All Blacks in two weeks’ time.”

After losing key winger Kenki Fukuoka to a calf injury early on, Japan’s start got even worse when Cheslin Kolbe showed some quick feet to dart past Yu Tamura and open the scoring on seven minutes.

South Africa dominated the aerial battle throughout the game and it was after another poor Japanese clearance that allowed Mapimpi to stroll in for his first try on 22 minutes.

“High kicks - they won that battle in the air,” conceded Japan boss Jamie Joseph.

“Their outside backs are very good aerially, they are very skilful and very big, very dynamic in the air.”

Mapimpi’s second came shortly after half an hour, off the back of another strong Springboks scrum and a neat midfield move straight from the training ground.

Handre Pollard added three from a penalty to give South Africa a 22 point lead going into the break.

Japan came flying out in the second half, but a resilient Springbok defence held on and they eventually cleared their lines before Mapimpi scored his third on 53 minutes, burning the Japanese defence with his speed.

DOMINANT DEFENCE

During their victorious Pacific Nations Cup campaign last month, Japan racked up 14 tries and 109 points during their three matches but South Africa’s stifling defence largely nullified their attack on Friday.

Their sole try came following a handling error from Springboks centre Lukhanyo Am, allowing South African-born winger Kotaro Matsushima to race clear and score on the hour mark.

Despite South African substitute Francois Louw being sin binned for the final ten minutes, a wildly loose pass from Tamura gifted Kolbe his second try with seven minutes remaining.

Erasmus conceded that the result flattered his team, who won despite having just 36 percent of possession in Kumagaya’s humid conditions.

“We decided to treat it as a wet game; we almost wanted to play without the ball, just for the first game to see how it goes as we will never know what it will be like the first game against New Zealand,” said Erasmus.

“We were definitely not 100 percent successful but it was a dominant defensive performance, which eventually led to tries for us from turnovers.”

Japan must look for improvement in their World Cup opener against Russia on Sept. 20 before South Africa begin their campaign against reigning champions New Zealand a day later. (Reporting by Jack Tarrant Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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