Japan's Rugby World Cup fairytale has been extinguished by a rampaging South African side as the Springboks booked a place in the tournament's semi-final with a 26-3 victory.

The host nation had shocked the world by going through its pool undefeated to become the first Asian team to make the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.

With incredible support from around the country, Japan were the sentimental favourites going up against the might of the two-time World Champions.

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The match began with incredible scenes as Japanese fly half Yutaka Nagare was in tears before the game.


The opening of the match appeared to have the Japanese side overawed for their first World Cup quarterfinal appearance as South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi crossed in the corner.

The early 5-0 lead could have spooked Japan but the Brave Blossoms lived up to their name, fighting hard against their much more fancied rivals.

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While the score was comprehensive, the Springboks didn't have it all their own way and were forced to fight for every point.

But second half penalties and two late tries gave South Africa the win.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi said his side expected nothing more than Japan to give their all.

"Honestly, it was exactly what we expected," Kolisi said. "We knew what Michael Leitch and his boys were going to bring. They said they were coming for us and for our set-piece ... But credit to my boys, we ground it out. Thanks to this amazing crowd, you should really be proud of your team. They play a style that's fearless."

It was hard to take for Japan with the emotion spilling over for the players.

A Japan player reacts to their quarter-final loss. Photo / AP
A Japan player reacts to their quarter-final loss. Photo / AP
Japan's Fumiaki Tanaka, center, cries after their loss to South Africa. Photo / AP
Japan's Fumiaki Tanaka, center, cries after their loss to South Africa. Photo / AP
Japan's Yutaka Nagare. Photo / AP
Japan's Yutaka Nagare. Photo / AP
Amanaki Mafi of Japan tears up as he holds his child following defeat to South Africa. Photo / Getty
Amanaki Mafi of Japan tears up as he holds his child following defeat to South Africa. Photo / Getty

Coach Jamie Joseph summed up the feelings best. "We're really proud with what we've achieved at the World Cup," he said. "I'm just disappointed for the players because they give so much to the group and they give so much to the country."

Japan finishes the World Cup sitting eighth in the world following the loss, after going into the game at a record high of sixth, one position ahead of the Wallabies.

The final quarterfinal was a hard slog with the first half ending 5-3.

While there were divisive calls, a decisive performance from referee Wayne Barnes ensured the focus stayed on the game.

A straight yellow card for South African prop Tendai Mtawarira appeared controversial after a tip tackle almost ended up horribly wrong.

The commentators labelled it "ugly" immediately but it was quickly resolved.

While some felt Mtawarira or "The Beast" was lucky, it didn't take away from the match.

It was a match that had both sides riding their luck however.

A call just before the end of the half, the Springboks were denied a try as Damian de Allende was denied a try after he was deemed to have been tackled and then continued to run.

Wallabies legend Phil Kearns said "that's a try every day of the week" but conceded that the world was behind Japan.

Justin Harrison said it was a flip of a coin but it was good to see a referee make a decision.

Former England star Stu Barnes agreed, especially with a tip tackle sending South African prop Tendai Mtawarira to the sin bin.

"The yellow card for The Beast, clear tip, you know how it is now, it's a lottery," he said. "I could not believe he didn't check, it was so close to being simultaneous head and neck. But if it went to TMO, it would have been what everyone was talking about, was it red or not but because he was decisive, we've sort of moved on from it."

Kearns said it's something that is worth changing after but shouldn't have changed during the event.

The first half was widely praised with social media as Japan stayed with the might of South Africa.

Unfortunately, the second half was all South Africa as the Springboks ground the Brave Blossoms out of the game.

Three penalty goals for Handre Pollard have the Springboks the 14-3 lead before the Springboks rolling maul did the job, putting scrum half Faf de Klerk over to all but ice the game at 21-3 with 14 minutes left in the game.

For the Springboks, the side are chasing a third World Cup title after their lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995 and 2007.

The side are hopeful the "rule of 12" trend continues in 2019, as the side prepare to play Wales, with the winner to face either New Zealand or England.

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