Japan V Springboks: greatest upset in rugby history

WELL, well, well now we have a World Cup that's taken a direction no one thought. Magnificent, clever, innovative, brave, brave, brave Japan have pulled off the unthinkable and beaten the Springboks.

The biggest shock in World Cup history? Would have to be wouldn't it? The Boks were going to walk the group. They were the winners, the Scots and Samoa playing for the other spot. Not now.

South Africa 32
Japan 34

Shame on us all for being so dismissive of Japan. No one saw them as a remotely serious contender to challenge even for second place. As for their chances of beating the Boks...don't be ridiculous.

Sorry Japan, you deserved better but not no one is going to make that mistake for the rest of this tournament. No way. Not a chance.

Japan were good for their win. Great for it in fact. Their skill level would sit alongside the All Blacks'.

Their pass and catch was superb. Their running angles inspired. Their ability to recycle quick ball as good as any team in the world. Their speed of movement fantastic.

They also had a level of innovation to counter their lack of size hat was so, so clever.

Their lineout variations were endless and while they had no chance of driving South Africa off the ball with eight forwards, they did when they brought in half their backs as well.

But what really set them apart was their courage, bravery, conviction and composure.

Every time South Africa scored Japan responded. They took each blow as it came but refused to lose heart. They reacted by coming back faster and harder.

When South Africa kicked their last penalty to sit three points ahead with six minutes to go - and even allowing for all that had happened up until then - they were probably still not seen as a strong beg to actually find a way to win.

Only the All Blacks have shown that same ability to play with such belief and skill in the closing stages to win from behind. Japan's ball retention in that period was world class.

Their decision making faultless. When they won the lineout but couldn't get the camera angle to show they had scored, that could have broken their spirit. When they won another penalty from the scrum but didn't have time to left for the lineout and then found themselves scrambling just to get the ball out, that could have broken their spirit.

But no. Instead they stayed strong mentally nearly scored in one corner and then gave the backs their chance - who took it - to score in the other one.

Japan have the potential to make it through to the quarterfinals but whether they do or don't, they have the potential to keep getting better as they have all the requirements they need to do so.

South Africa will be rocked and shaken but will strike back. They can still top their group and get their campaign back on track.

It's just that right now, the players may be struggling to believe that.

Japan by the numbers:

World Cup matches: Played 25, lost 21, won 2, drew 2.
Last win: v Zimbabwe, 1991
Odds on beating South Africa: 40 - 1
Their 2015 pre-World Cup record: Beat: Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, Uruguay, Georgia.
Lost to: USA, Fiji, Tonga.

Their World Cup match list
Lost - Japan 18 USA 21
Lost - Japan 7 England 60
Lost - Japan 23 Australia 32
Lost - Japan 9 Scotland 47
Lost - Japan 16 Ireland 32
Won - Japan 52 Zimbabwe 8
Lost - Japan 10 Wales 52
Lost - Japan 28 Ireland 50
Lost - Japan 17 New Zealand 145
Lost - Japan 9 Samoa 43
Lost - Japan 15 Wales 64
Lost - Japan 12 Argentina 33
Lost - Japan 11 Scotland 32
Lost - Japan 29 France 51
Lost - Japan 13 Fiji 41
Lost - Japan 26 USA 39
Lost - Japan 3 Australia 91
Lost - Japan 31 Fiji 35
Lost - Japan 18 Wales 72
Draw - Japan 12 Canada 12
Lost - Japan 21 France 47
Lost - Japan 7 New Zealand 83
Lost - Japan 18 Tonga 31
Draw - Japan 23 Canada 23

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