Japan coach Eddie Jones says the Springboks will bounce back in their next World Cup clash against Samoa, reports JON CARDINELLI in Brighton.
Japan have beaten the Boks. The Brave Blossoms scored a try in injury time of the Pool B opener in Brighton on Saturday to overtake South Africa and claim a 34-32 win. The result marked Japan’s second-ever win at a World Cup.
After the game, Jones was elated by, and even a bit surprised with, the result. It will have a major influence on how every other team in the pool approaches the remaining contests from hereon in.
‘This has thrown the pool wide open,’ said Jones. ‘That game between the Boks and Samoa is now the game to go to if you’re a fan. That might be the game of the tournament, a real bash-up festival.
‘The Boks are one of the best teams in the world, and a proud nation, so they will be back. Maybe they were already thinking about the next game, and not focusing on us.’
Evidently, it was a costly mistake. Jones said he was still coming to terms with the fact that Japan, a side ranked 13th in the world, had beaten the two-time world champions.
‘In those final minutes, I had to keep looking at the scoreline and remind myself of what was happening,’ he said with a laugh.
‘You know how many times it’s happened before when a team like Japan is in the game and then gets blown off the park [in the latter stages]. It’s like the horror movie when the woman is in the shower, you always know what’s coming next. And when it does, people still say that Japan were brave to stay in the game as long as they did.
‘But it didn’t happen on this occasion. We were more than brave today. [Captain] Michael Leitch had the courage to go for the win at the end.
‘It was an amazing end to the game,’ Jones continued. ‘The atmosphere and the tension in the stadium… I think the Bok fans at the ground may have been cheering for Japan to win at that point? OK, maybe not. But it has to be one of the great games in World Cup history.’
Leitch revealed that he and Jones had spoken about that scenario beforehand.
‘We’ve been training to beat the Boks for the past three years. We haven’t won a game at the World Cup in 24 years. This is a special moment,’ the flanker said.
‘We had been talking about it all week, what to do if Japan is still in the contest in the second half. When we were in the moment, I thought we had come to far to stop now. I didn’t want to let the boys down.’
Jones said that Japan’s win was significant, not just in the context of the 2015 World Cup but for the growth of the sport in the Far East nation. Japan will host the next World Cup in 2019.
‘At the opening ceremony, we watched a documentary about the history of Japan at the World Cup,’ Jones explained. ‘I said to the players that we need to make new history.
‘Perhaps this will give kids in Japan a reason to pick rugby over any other sport, to be the next Michael Leitch or Ayumu Goromaru. This will be amazing for the sport in Japan.
‘And we’re not done yet,’ he added. ‘If we make the quarter-finals, I can retire. Then I can watch rugby and criticise others like [former England coach] Clive Woodward does. That’s my dream.
‘I’ve coached for 20 years, and I’ve never worked as hard as I have in preparing Japan for this World Cup. Really, I’m too old for this. I’m 55, I should be on the beach in Barbados watching cricket,’ he quipped.
Japan have appeared at every World Cup tournament, but are yet to qualify for the play-offs.
Photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images