Such was the scale of Japan’s Rugby World Cup victory over South Africa four years ago, they made a movie – ‘The Brighton Miracle’ – to commemorate one of the great sporting upsets.
There will surely be a sequel on the way after this year’s Brave Blossoms reached the quarter-finals for the first time by beating Scotland, and box-office sales could soar through the roof if history repeats itself on Sunday when they face the Springboks again.
South Africa will start the last-eight contest as overwhelming favourites to gain revenge, with their star-studded cast including Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Japan also have no shortage of talent to play leading roles and will be backed by a raucous crowd when they attempt to break new ground once again on home soil.
As the Boks plot to spoil the party for their hosts, we reflect on how Japan pulled off a monumental shock at the last World Cup in England, as well as looking at the prospects of lightning striking twice.
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 18, 2019
Hesketh and Goromaru rock Boks
Japan were not given a prayer in the opening Pool B match given Zimbabwe were the only team they had previously beaten in a World Cup match – and that win was way back in 1991.
Yet Eddie Jones’ side humiliated a vastly experienced Springboks team with their exciting brand of rugby, coming from behind to secure the most dramatic and unlikely of victories.
Karne Hesketh crossed right at the death and Ayumu Goromaru claimed a 24-point haul to leave the two-time champions not knowing what had hit them following a 34-32 loss.
Meyer fronts up to ‘Boklash’
Heyneke Meyer came under fire after his side lost the plot and rampant Japan made them pay.
The then-head South Africa coach said: “I have to apologise to the nation. It was just not good enough. It was unacceptable and I take full responsibility.
“Every game is going to be tough but there are no excuses.”
2 – South Africa have lost the opening match of their last two @rugbyworldcup campaigns (also v Japan in 2015), they’d won their opening game in each of their previous five tournaments. Halted.#NZLvRSA #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/UFz7W0iQIO
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) September 21, 2019
Jones: I had to look at the scoreboard
Jones, who landed the England job after his success with Japan in 2015, was pinching himself after the underdogs snatched victory with their last throw of the dice.
The Australian said: “Japan beating South Africa? I had to look at the scoreboard at the end just to see if it was true or not. We kept hanging in there. It looked at one stage when they got seven points ahead that they would run away with it.
“That would have been the normal scenario, like the horror story where the woman goes for a shower after midnight and you know what’s going to happen. Normally they would score three or four, it ends up 50-20 and everyone says, ‘Well done Japan, you tried hard, you were brave’. But we were more than brave.”
What happened next?
Jones said the objective for Japan was to go on and reach the quarter-finals after downing the two-time champions, but they fell agonisingly short.
A heavy defeat to Scotland turned out to be crucial as Japan finished third in Pool B after failing to pick up any bonus points.
South Africa, Scotland and the Brave Blossoms all won three and lost one of their four games, but it was Japan who missed out.
Waiting for the weekend like…. pic.twitter.com/ccGWDlkczE
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 18, 2019
Hope springs eternal for revenge-seeking Boks
Although Japan are riding on the crest of a wave as they prepare for their first World Cup knockout match, South Africa have looked formidable despite making a losing start against New Zealand.
Potent in attack and solid in defence, the Springboks have turned their fortunes around under Rassie Erasmus and dethroned the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship.
They also hammered Japan 41-7 in a pre-tournament warm-up match and is it hard to envisage them suffering another upset at the hands of their next opponents.
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