South Africa 32-34 Japan: Springboks shocked in opening World Cup clash
Last Updated: 20/09/15 10:12am
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.
South Africa's were considered as genuine World Cup contenders but their credentials and pride took a real beating as Japan were deserved winners in a pulsating afternoon.
It was the first time these sides have ever played each other and on this result, South Africa will be hoping it will be a long time before they meet each other again.
Having soaked up seven minutes of South African pressure, the minnows set the tone for a gripping afternoon when they suddenly broke through and had the audacity to score first.
Goromaru led the charge through the midfield and was eventually stopped in his tracks by opposite number Zane Kirchner.
The Japanese were awarded a penalty for their troubles and Goromaru confidently knocked it over.
Japan's swift, inventive movement was giving South Africa cause for concern already but nevertheless, with 17 minutes gone, they got off the mark, their forwards driving relentlessly before tumbling over the line with flanker Francois Louw touching down.
That should have settled any early-tournament nerves for the Springboks, but rather than opening the floodgates, Japan hit back with a try of their own.
A lengthy TMO referral decided not to award a try to Hendrik Tui after a 13-man maul drove him over but, undaunted, Japan merely won the line-out and drove forward again, this time their New Zealand-born captain Michael Leitch touching down for Japan.
Their unlikely lead did not last long, however, with hooker Bismarck Du Plessis the man diving over to give South Africa a narrow advantage at half-time.
That lead lasted just three minutes into the second half, Goromaru slotting over another penalty to put Japan ahead by one.
However, that jolted South Africa into action and straight from the restart the giant Lood De Jager broke through a huge gap to dive in under the posts.
Yet even then the respite did not last, Goromaru rifling over three penalties to level the scores again with 54 minutes played.
Springbok replacement Adriaan Strauss finished off a rare well-worked move to give them the lead but, yet again, Japan were not finished.
Kotaro Matsushima worked himself space and sliced the South African defence open as he found that man Goromaru in support and, unthinkably, the scores were level with just 10 minutes to play.
Pollard's penalty gave South Africa a tiny piece of breathing space but Japan, roared on by the crowd, inched ever closer to the whitewash.
Coenie Oosthuizen was yellow-carded as South Africa's rearguard creaked under the severe pressure and eventually a pile of red and white shirts made it across.
After a nerve-jangling wait for another TMO decision, no try was awarded but still Japan came forward and eventually Hesketh dived over in the corner, and into the history books, to cap a truly remarkable afternoon.