Japan prays for new 'miracle' against Springboks
Japan are hoping they can add to their wins over Ireland and Scotland and topple the mighty Springboks on Sunday
Millions of home fans will tune in on Sunday as host team Japan bid to extend their Rugby World Cup fairy-tale in a historic quarter-final against SA.
The Brave Blossoms' run has captured the Japanese imagination, with nearly 55 million watching their scintillating win over Scotland as they topped their pool, organisers said.
It represented a record for any rugby match in Japan, and outstripped viewing figures for the 2002 World Cup football final held in Yokohama, adjacent to Tokyo.
Now Japan are hoping they can add to their wins over Ireland and Scotland and topple the mighty Springboks — as they did in their “Miracle of Brighton” victory in 2015, one of rugby’s greatest shocks.
Sunday’s opening quarter-final features Six Nations champions Wales against France, a repeat of the tense 2011 semi-final when the Welsh had their captain sent off and lost by a point.
But Japanese interest rests squarely on Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms, whose rousing brand of rugby has attracted wide acclaim at the first World Cup held in Asia.
“We get a lot of support, especially from Japan,” said assistant coach Tony Brown.
“It’s amazing the amount of people that have got on the Japan bandwagon. The amount of people watching every game and supporting us in Japan has been amazing.”
Long queues for replica shirts and endless repeats of Japan’s wins on TV are testament to the growing excitement around the team.
However, they remain heavy underdogs against an imposing SA side, who have set out to bully the Japanese with their massive pack and by naming six forwards among their eight replacements on the bench.