Japan made history last weekend as they clinched an unprecedented win over Rugby giants, South Africa at the ongoing Rugby World Cup.
Four minutes into extra time, Japan’s Karne Hesketh raced into the edge of the left corner, earning them a momentous victory that sent millions of fans in Japan, into frenzy mode. And you can’t blame them either.
A quick look into the footage of their victory last night summed up the value of this win. It didn’t just get their World Cup off to a perfect start, but it also sent a message to the rest of the world, that they are no longer minnows in the game. And it was a reaffirmation of why sports continues to provide the greatest form of novelty to human beings today.
But let’s not talk about the victory in itself shall we. Let’s take a detour and focus on the squad that actually made history last weekend. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about them.
FOREIGN INFLUX – Japan’s skipper is actually a Fiji-born player, who features in their back row. Michael Leitch was originally born in New Zealand and his parents were from Fiji. But having moved to Japan at the age of 15, Michael eventually became accustomed to the culture over there and reportedly speaks better Japanese, than he does in English today. Approximately seven years ago, he captained Japan at the World Junior Championships, and last night, he made history.
24 YEARS OF WAITING – Prior to their momentous victory over the Springboks, Japan’s only other win at the Rugby World Cup came in 1991, when they defeated Zimbabwe 52-8. Since then, they’ve lost and drawn all their other matches at the Rugby World Cup. To be precise, they’ve drawn a total of 2 games and lost 16 games until last night’s ‘miracle’ win. Eddie Jones must be the happiest man on earth at this point!
FEEDING WWE – Kenzo Suzuki; who is widely known for his exploits as a professional wrestler in WWE, was a Japanese international rugby player prior to that. Suzuki came on for Bill Goldberg at the New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestling World 2000 event, before going on to compete in WWE’s SmackDown show. He even clinched the World TagTeam title with Rene Dupree in 2004!
100-POINTS BARRIER – A niggling dark spot in Japanese rugby history came in 1995, when they suffered a whopping 145-17 defeat against New Zealand. The defeat meant that they were the first team to ever concede more than 100 points in a Rugby World Cup game. That was also the year in which they conceded the most amount of points in a single Rugby World Cup, letting in a total of 252 points.
EXPERIENCED HALF-JAPANESE BOSS – Japan are currently under the tutelage of a man who took Australia to the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, where they suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of England in extra time. They went into the tournaments as third favourites, but they caused a major upset in the semis, knocking the All Blacks out of the competition. Also, Eddie Jones is half-Japanese!