LONDON – Japan pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history on Saturday, defeating two-time World Cup champions South Africa 34-32 in a ferocious encounter at Brighton Community Stadium.
Replacement Karne Hesketh raced in at the corner in the 84th minute to snatch victory from a pulsating contest in the Pool B opener.
Ferocious tacking from Japan kept them within two points of the Springboks at halftime after driving mauls brought tries for South Africa’s Francois Louw and Bismarck du Plessis, with Michael Leitch touching down for Japan.
The reliable boot of fullback Ayumu Goromaru nudged Japan in front early in the second half, but that was quickly cancelled out by a try from South African lock Lood De Jager.
Both sides exchanged a series of penalties before Springboks snatched another try as replacement Adriaan Strauss burst through the defence. But then Japan found space out wide, sending Goromaru in at the corner; his conversion levelling the scores.
Another Springbok penalty looked like breaking Japanese hearts before Hesketh grabbed the winner in overtime. Reuters