On This Day in 2015: Japan pull off biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history

Japan stunned South Africa 34-32 in their opening match of the tournament in Brighton.

By Press Association Published: 19 September 2020 - 5.00am

UK

World

Rugby Union

Karne Hesketh’s 84th-minute try sealed the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history as Japan stunned South Africa 34-32 in their opening match of the tournament in Brighton.

The two-time champions were left reeling by a squad featuring three players who were not even born the last time the Brave Blossoms won a World Cup match in 1991.

Trailing by two at half-time, a try from Ayumu Goromaru and some nerveless kicking dragged Japan level at 29-29 with just 10 minutes to play, plainly rattling the South Africans.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2015 – Pool B – South Africa v Japan – Brighton Community Stadium
Karne Hesketh sealed a stunning victory for Japan (Gareth Fuller/PA)

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 the brave Japanese paid off when Hesketh scored in the corner to send the crowd wild.

Japan coach Eddie Jones hailed his 40-1 outsiders and admitted: “Japan beating South Africa? I had to look at the scoreboard at the end just to see if it was true or not.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2015 – Pool B – South Africa v Japan – Brighton Community Stadium
Japanese fans celebrated their side’s unlikely World Cup win (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“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, with Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer left to admit: “We let our country down.”