Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


South Africa 32-34 Japan

Japan - pic © Al Ross
Japan - pic © Al Ross

A thoroughly entertaining first half performance from Japan saw them stick closely to the Springboks on the scoreboard while deploying the sort of fast paced offloading rugby they are known for and which makes them such a joy to watch – and a potential danger to Scotland’s defence.

Coached by Eddie Jones and sprinkled with the odd project player of their own, they now have some forward nous to their game as well as a remarkably less porous defence than we have seen in the past. They have a strong lineout, which gives them a strong attacking platform. When you are kicking for the corner after only 25 minutes it shows real confidence in your abilities.

There was the occasional feeling of “anything you can do…” which suggested South Africa weren’t quite in top gear but only planning to seek it when they needed to. Everything Japan tried South Africa that ended in success, responded in kind, from initially fumbling errors to two impressive rolling lineout drives that led to a try at each end within moments of each other. Both sides could trouble Scotland in this regard.

Japan were very canny and played a sound tactical game, not forcing it but always waiting to pounce on a turnover opportunity and finding plenty of change in the outer channels. The worry was that the effort required to stay so close in the first half would nor or could not be maintained in the second half.

HT RSA 12-10 Japan

Stalwart fullback Goromaru inched Japan back into the lead with a penalty and with referees and TMOs so influential in the tournament already, relying on penalties to bring you back into games could be foolhardy – not to mention the promise of bonus points. So it was that Bok lock Lood de Jager loped over the line after busting through a tackle, to swing the momentum right back to the South Africans.

More confidence was shown by Japan shortly after a period of intense tackling by the Boks and some darting Japanese runs earned them another penalty. They didn’t chase the corner, but Goromaru kicked the goal. Japan were treating this like a test match in which they were equals, not massive underdogs.

The roar when Japan equalised with a further penalty on 53 minutes was huge, with most of the neutrals by now having shifted allegiance to the Brave Blossoms. A penalty apiece followed and the stage was set for a nailbiting last 20, until Adriaan Strauss burst through the line and ran in for a simple try. Those infrequent splinterings in the Japanese defence faced with hefty runner just gave South Africa enough to keep clawing back the lead.

But Japan just would not lie down, and that man Goromaru finished an attacking move Ireland would be proud of with a superb try and converted it himself to draw even at 29-29 with ten minutes to play.

South Africa were rattled enough to kick a penalty when next given the opportunity – this had suddenly become a must win situation for the mighty Springboks and Japan were still breaking the gain line through runners like Matsushima, Leitch and Amanaki Mafi. The Boks went a man down with 2 minutes to go as Japan attacked, and Japan had one final chance for glory through their lineout.

They drove it over, but the ball was in the middle of a pile and the TMO had little chance to see it anywhere near the line. Another penalty and one last scrum with the time over and history on the line turned into a series of scrums before Japan threw it first one way, then the other and Karne Hesketh slid over in the corner to seal the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history.

The joy of the Rugby World Cup is that it does throw up theses games where although you rarely see that Hollywood glory moment come 80 minutes, the thought you might be seeing sporting history for almost an hour of rugby or more can be truly inspiring.

And every so often you get a game that does go right down to the end, that does show you sometimes the underdogs can have their day in the Brighton sun – and give you a true moment of sporting magic.

34 Responses

  1. Great result for Japan and world rugby. Not so great for Scotland! Let’s hope Japan celebrate by getting hammered on the town.

  2. Blimey! Fortune favoured the brave for a change.
    Well done Japan. I was screaming when they scored in the corner.
    Makes it interesting on Wednesday.

  3. Japan were sensational, especially in second half. Disciplined, skillful and clearly very fit. Before today, I thought that Japan and USA games were safe wins for Scotland – not so sure now.

  4. Well done Japan. Pool is wide open now. Hopefully that has woken up everyone up to the reality that we will have to play our socks off to get out of the group.

  5. Great win by Japan, and the most honest game of rugby seen in years. No cynical play (not playing for the penalty), knowing their own weaknesses and playing accordingly, great ambition, courage and spirit. I fear that we will lose on Wednesday, but if we do, the Japanese will deserve all credit for how they have played.

  6. Well done Japan, just a shame that it has to involve Eddie Jones but I will have to live with that. Anyway I wonder if this will mean a rethink of the team to face Japan

  7. Just goes to show their are no easy games in our group. South Africa had 800 plus caps on the pitch and they struggled so scotland be warned.that said well done Japan and come on scotland!!!

  8. Well who would have predicted that. It was sensational and has to be one of the biggest upsets of all time in world sport. let alone rugby. Japan showed how to play the game and they won for the following reasons

    1. Lack of errors and penalties given away.
    2.Lack of stupid mistakes such as handling errors.
    3.They hardly did any box or garryoen kicks, keeping the ball to hand and playing it to their backs. They even ran the ball from their own try line on more than one occassion. The AB play in the same way. Interestingly, SA seemed to adopt the garryowen tactic (something they dont normally do) and its probably one of the reasons they lost the game.
    4.Quick ball from rucks lineouts and scrums, never giving the opposition time to settle.
    5.Never give up mentality, right to the final whistle.
    6.SA were poor and played like a public park team- Kirkcaldy YMCA on a Monday night training session in February. Sure Japan were good but SA should really be puting tems like that away with points to spare.

    SA look OK but I think their tactics were off and they have too many old players. Habana and Victor Matfield were once great players but are probably past it at international level. I cant even remember when Habana had a great game- 5 years ago or 10? Sure they are experienced but lack the speed and fitness you need at this level.

    I honestly believe Japan will beat Scotland if they play like that. If Scotland persist with their poor kicking game and make the number of mistakes we are inclined to do, then I would say Japan will win by 15-20 points and maybe even more. Trust me on this one- this was not a one off and Japan did not just get lucky. They fully deserved their win and could have probably score more points. The only good thing about this is that I think we will stand a better chance of beating SA based on current form. Imagine this- Japan and Scotland qualify and SA head home.

    1. Well you had better turn off, because Scotland will kick , why would you not against Japan ? They will need stepladders to take the ball aff fae Visser .

      I suspect it will be Japan playing in the east neuk of Fife , according to the ITV commentators they were stuffing themselves with Fish Suppers the night before the game. Try keeping them away fae Pittenweem.

  9. Sensational performance from Japan, and great courage and self-confidence at the end when even a draw would have split this Group wide open. Like others, I was seeing the Saffer and Samoa games as the ones that really count for us – but am now thinking differently. Hopefully, Vern and his coaching team will develop a game plan to neutralise Japan’s strengths. We do now on the evidence of the warm up have the players to execute such a plan.

    I can only imagine the reaction of SA sports media and fans in a country where rugby is God for many.

  10. I’ve seen a few people say Japan demonstrated the organised chaos Vern Cotter wants Scotland to play, which is spot on. Our execution levels are not as high as Japan’s yet but I think we have some other advantages over them. It’s going to be close and nerve-wracking but we need to stick to our guns and play our own game. Can’t wait for Wednesday.

  11. In spite of the result yesterday I would be gutted to lose on Wednesday. Japan were ok but SA were awful, plus Japan have a 4 day turnaround and IMO will find it hard to maintain their focus after that unexpected win.

  12. Haven’t had a chance to watch the match yet but from what I gather Japan played an expansive positive game and weren’t afraid to try anything so well done them and let it be a lesson to other teams how to play the game. Worst thing for us is SA still got 2 points out of that. We are going to have to hit the US and Samoa hard, from watching that match I don’t think we have much to fear but we end up defeating ourselves most of the time rather than the opposition doing anything spectacular.

  13. Having watched the game, whilst SA was sub par, I think there were a few things that went Japan’s way;
    – refereeing favoured the Japanese and I was bemused by some the pings against SA
    – the crowd created such a positive advantage for them as every neutral was cheering them on in a tight stadium (this will be different on Wednesday I hope)
    – by and large, the Japaenese played to there utmost abilities and many SA players were below par (Lambie was poor as was Pienar.
    – the SA team is old and could not keep up with variety/innovation from Japan … I loved their scrum play, which included good old hooking and fast no8 play (we are a much more young and mobile side than SA)
    – SA was pretty one dimensional (high kicks or back 3 driving thru midfield) which was easy to read
    I see no reason why Scotland should not beat Japan especially with home advantage and a fresher team. We just need to stay focused, intense and make sure we do organised chaos better than them.

  14. Great win for Japan but South Africa were no where near their best on the day and they allowed the Japanese parity in the scrum and to bring the game to the SA backs. Scotland need to play with the speed and disrupting tactics they used in France and take the game to them.
    Samoa and USA today didn’t show any real threat based on today’s game but always the chance the team become complacent and sit back.
    After the 6 nations we have a lot to prove and Wednesday the staring date to do so.

  15. Yes Japan claimed a remarkable victory & yes they looked very good versus an anaemic & blundering SA but steady on (especially Neil, who’s been on the cat nip) this is a team who’ve lost to Fiji, Tonga & USA very recently. Yes they are improving but realistically if we play properly a 20 point win is well within our reach.

    Unquestionably the worst SA performance ive ever seen

  16. Expect to see Scotland hit them hard and through the middle from the word go to bring them back to earth and establish superiority

  17. Well great result for Japan and they will have the momentum coming into the game. SA will be under pressure to beat Scotland and halt us getting bonus point, so it is going to be a great tornament and just what Scotland need. Getting out this group will be so character building.

    SA have had a dip in form coming into the game and I agree , they are an ageing team who probably looking elsewhere when preparing for this game.

    I thought they were on the wrong end of a few 50/50 decisions and I feel the refereeing could have been better.

    Jaqan were lively and very agile , and I concerned about how we manage the japaneese scrum. I think our current area of weakness is the same as SA’s which is the front row. The Japan scrum is compact , short props who are low to the ground and this puts the taller front rows at a disadvantage. If we can master the scrum , and start well, Scotland will triumph. I have a slight concern about who the neutrals will support in this game.

    I actually fancy Scotland in the Scrum against SA. I was going to mention in pre tournament posts that I think the ‘Beast’ is overrated and I saw nothing in their game to change my mind about that. I look forward to that exchange.

    I suspect we will get a break in the Scrum when we play the Boks.

    1. Reality check Bulldog. Japan did not just get lucky. They fully deserved their win and I thought they would have probably won by a bigger margin. SA were not completely rubbish but the players they have are past their best and it showed. Lack of fitness going into the last quarter was a problem and they seemed to be lacking in both speed and strength. A vastly experienced team but past its best. They need to retie guys like Mattfield and Habana and bring in fit youngsters. However, I don’t care what they do as long as Scotland beat them. I cant remember the last time I watched Habana have a good game. He was amazing 5-10 years ago but seems to have gone off the boil.

  18. Hi I know this is off topic but I can’t find anywhere on the site to contact the admins and the thread on this topic is closed

    What is the ruling in international eligibility if you are changing countries?

    I have been told it is 2 years without playing an international. Is that correct? I am assuming the player in question is already eligible for the new country through ancestry and doesn’t require a qualifying period

  19. Did anyone notice the speed of Japans ‘hooking’ in the scrum?
    Who said that the 3 x prop method was the only way? Most people on this blog I seem to remember.
    The no 8 was off and running while the Bok scrum was just beginning to push. Very technically efficient, and what the northern hemisphere should be doing. Apologies Bulldog, but who wants to watch a scrum penalty fest and reset scrums ad bloody nauseum!

    1. I do not recall saying I am looking forward to loads of reset scrums or a penalty fest so there is no need to apologise.

      I welcome the Scrum returning to being a competative strategy rather than a means to restart the game.

      Oh, the Japaneese can hook because their props are short and their backs are straight. The hooker can get into a position to hook because of that stability. The taller opposition props are back bent in order to avoid droping shoulders below hips , so their hooker has no choice but to hold on and push or break his neck when the legs leave the ground. Buckled backs mean second row power is chanelled into buckling you up in the air. Believe me , I know how this works. You can count the ribs as they crack if you get it right. But who can play rugby with the opposition off the pitch.

      We may struggle with the scrum on Wednesday. However we will be ready for it and will maximise our chances elsewhere.

      I think Lamont needs to feature on Wednesday , this game is made for his style of play.

      Lets start talking about the selection.

      1. I’m not getting at you Bulldog. I’ just have it in my head that you are a prop. Can’t think why?
        Unlike you, I only want the scrum as a means of restarting the game.

      2. Well, I never thought you were , we are usually of a similar mind. I understand your point now and with reluctance I will immediately concede, as I think your are more likely, to get your wish before, I get mine.

        However, there is one thing we will both agree on and that is, that there needs to be less resets and penalties.

        Where we have a difference, to chat about at another time, is how to gain that outcome.

        Enjoy the game , it is likely to be a cracker.

  20. Probably one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever watched. Japan were exceptional whilst SA were dreadful. I actually think it may not be a bad result for us in that it will force us not to under estimate Japan, which I think there was a danger of before. SA play was predictable and laboured, I think if we play our own game we have the backline to do real damage, even without Hoggy, who looks like he’s not making it. I wonder if Japan can play like that twice in a row? This is the team who recently lost to the USA, Fiji and Tonga and only just beat Georgia. I also think that it’s about time we played to our potential and started to believe in ourselves. I genuinely now believe we can win all four pool games and top the group. I know I’m blinkered but with everyone fit and healthy, and a bit of luck, I think we have the players to do it.

    1. Hogg made it!

      Full of trepidation for Wednesday’s game but any win will do and I have no doubt we have a team that can win. I thought the Boks were complacent and arrogant and I really doubt that Cotter has done anything other than prepare thoroughly for this match. It is going to be a fascinating test match in what is now the second group of death.

      1. Great news regarding Hogg and a very good team put out. A lot of strength and power to come off the bench too, particularly Strauss and Gray, which I would imagine will be part of the plan against a hopefully tiring Japan team! Can’t come quick enough!

  21. It’s a strong team with some speed. The tactics will be interesting. I can’t see Scotland wanting a fast open game unless it’s on their terms. I like the look of the backline and the back row, although I’m really looking forward to Josh Strauss having a run out.
    The Japanese ‘head on’ tsckling of the big guys wasn’t good at the weekend, so maybe up the middles with the big lads at pace is where we start.
    I’m not as nervous about this match as some. We should win if we perform.

    1. I agree. I also think if we can get J Gray and Denton running at pace we’ll make ground. Surprised at Gilchrist ahead to R Gray but again could be a tactic off the bench. I’m my stupidly optimistic self ahead of this and that never bodes well.

  22. Watched the match, what a game! As others have said I think they struggled stopping SAs big ball carriers. We need guys like Denton, Lamont, Ford, the Grays etc to have a big game and get involved. Their handling skills looked good and they made few errors, something we are prone to. Same old story, on paper we should be capable of putting them away but rugby isn’t played on paper, if we keep it simple and cut out the errors we should do ok. Oh and we will really have to learn quick how to stop rolling mauls, teams are bound to target us there

    I would rather be playing the Boks next tbh, hit them when they are down. They will definitely improve, I don’t think they are as rubbish as people are saying. They certainly didn’t get the rub of the green from the ref.

  23. I was away at the weekend and missed the game, but wooft – what a result for Japan! Delighted for them. Watched the highlights and it looked like they played some excellent rugby. Not sure if this makes things better or worse for Scotland. We’re probably lucky that it was SA who got the fright first up. Not sure how facing a buoyed up Japan and later a wounded Springboks balances up against getting a tired Japan just a few days after a big match.. This result is good for rugby, but bad for the nerves. I hope to see a lot of the Glasgow mentality on the pitch tomorrow. Belief, execution, water tight defence and a never say die attitude.

  24. Fantastic result for japan. I hope it inspires other ‘lesser’ nations. Could make this world cup very interesting indeed.

    However, call me crazy, but I think that scotland will rack up a bonus point victory….3 day turn around, media buzz, over confidence, 90 cap difference in the japan line up, added to scotland continuing the progress during the warm up matches, and hopefully being raring to get out the blocks after almost a 3 week wait…all contributing to a convincing scotland win. Not being a betting man though, I wont be making a trip to the bookies

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion