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Japan face barriers to progress, says Rassie

South Africa 26 Japan 3

Talking point: referee Wayne Barnes yellow cards South Africa’s Tendai Mtawarira who was lucky to escape a red
Talking point: referee Wayne Barnes yellow cards South Africa’s Tendai Mtawarira who was lucky to escape a red
SA coach Rassie Erasmus

By Andy Newport

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus believes adding Japan to the Rugby Championship would be an "interesting" proposition but fears logistical hurdles will make it impossible.

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The hosts lit up this year's World Cup with a string of daring displays before crashing out to the Springboks in Tokyo.

While Erasmus' team are now looking forward to a semi-final showdown with Wales next Sunday following their 26-3 triumph, the Brave Blossoms face a return to the outer limits of the global game.

As a Tier Two outfit, Japan compete annually in the Pacific Nations Cup and the Asia Rugby Championship but there are already calls for them to be admitted to the Rugby Championship to boost their development with regular clashes against New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

But Boks coach Erasmus is not convinced the idea will take off.

He said: "It would be interesting, I think it's a good debate to have. Their style of play would be something interesting.

"But then all the questions, the weather, possible problems and solutions, positive and negative, I just wouldn't know that. I haven't really put my thinking hat on about that.

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"It looks like a good proposition, but then it comes to whether it's logistically and financially possible, would it make sense in broadcasting, travel-wise?

"I do know the brand they play is exciting and they would really fit in. But apart from that I'd be stupid to comment because I'm not part of those discussions."

Japan were looking to repeat their shock win over the Springboks from four years ago.

Their relentless pace and energy in attack has already tripped up Ireland and Scotland in this year's competition but Erasmus sent out his heavy hitters and succeeded in overpowering their smaller opponents.

Giant prop Tendai Mtawarira was lucky not to be sent off for a shocking dump tackle on opposite number Keita Inagaki and with that let-off the South Africans grunted their way to victory after Makazole Mapimpi scored either side of a Faf De Klerk try.

'The Beast' Mtawarira upended Keita Inagaki midway through the first-half and was sin-binned for the crude tackle.

But referee Wayne Barnes reached immediately for a yellow card, opting not to refer the decision to Television Match Official (TMO) Rowan Kitt.

Inagaki landed on his head, leaving Japan frustrated with the level of punishment delivered to Mtawarira.

The tournament burst into life with a breathless group stage encounter between South Africa and New Zealand, that the back-to-back world champion All Blacks won 23-13.

There remains every chance the World Cup could finish just as it began then, with both South Africa and New Zealand appearing dangerous in attack and resolute in defence.

And so Japan's adventure came to a gruelling close not befitting with the audacious attacking elan that so lit up this tournament.

But even in defeat they can hold heads high and look to a big future. The Boks meanwhile will be very seriously eyeing a third world title.

The final scoreline was harsh on Japan but coach Jamie Joseph could not fault his Brave Blossoms.

"I'm just really proud of the Japan team and all the players," he said.

"We've had massive support, the players understood that and it really helped us.

"Sometimes home advantage can work against you but the support has been fantastic.

"The last five minutes of that Test match showed what type of team this is. We were down by 20-odd points but we still had the never-say-die attitude. People just kept on getting up.

"We refused to lie down and I'm really proud of that as a coach. And that's something that can help us move forward after this World Cup. I can't tell you anything about what's next but I know Japanese rugby is in a good place now.

"The players and the brand of rugby they've been playing, it's inspiring. The only difference now is everyone is watching us.

"The rugby hasn't changed, but now there's been an audience. It's created a voice for the team in that respect and hopefully that will give momentum for Japanese kids, and that's ideal."

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