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Eddie Jones amazed as his Japan World Cup heroes stun the Springboks

Published 19/09/2015

Japan coach Eddie Jones congratulates his team after their extraordinary win
Japan coach Eddie Jones congratulates his team after their extraordinary win

Japan coach Eddie Jones checked the scoreboard to be sure his eyes were not playing tricks after his team pulled off the greatest shock in Rugby World Cup history.

Jones looked on in delighted disbelief, along with 30,000 mesmerised spectators at Brighton's Amex Stadium, as the players who were 40/1 outsiders to win the match stunned mighty South Africa 34-32.

The Brave Blossoms, who have three players in their squad who were not even born when Japan had last won a World Cup match in 1991, created an upset which ranks among the most remarkable sport has ever known.

Karne Hesketh's 84th-minute try capped a mesmerising performance from a side who usually play the role of group stage cannon fodder as Japan somehow beat the two-time world champions, who were 500/1 on to win the match.

Australian Jones 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."

Instead it was the South Africans who found themselves starring in their own horror movie.

They trailed 10-7 midway through the first half thanks to a try from Japan's New Zealand-born captain Michael Leitch, which cancelled out Francois Louw's score, but led by two at half-time after Bismarck Du Plessis went over.

Lood De Jager and Adriaan Strauss scored under the posts in the second half but a try from full-back Ayumu Goromaru, as well as his nerveless kicking, drew Japan level at 29-29 with just 10 minutes to play.

When Handre Pollard kicked a penalty with five minutes remaining it appeared South Africa would at least avoid a humiliating defeat.

But relentless pressure from Japan paid off when rather than take a penalty for a draw, they were rewarded for their bravery when Hesketh scored in the left corner.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said: "We let our country down, we weren't good enough but all credit to Japan, they played really well.

"I knew they would be tough but we knew what to expect. But we gave away too many penalties and just couldn't get going.

"Scoring four tries should be enough but our discipline wasn't good enough.

"I said before, this will be the toughest World Cup ever and I think there will be more shocks. I still believe we can win the World Cup, but I have to press some hard buttons to try to fix it."

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