|Japan v South Africa, Rugby World Cup quarter-final|
|(Venue:) ********************** (Tokyo Stadium) ********************* (Date: (Sunday, (October) Kick-off :11: (BST)|
|Coverage:Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
“This is no longer a miracle.”
So read many Japanese newspapers as the Brave Blossoms booked a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first timewith victory against Scotland.
The Japanese public and media are waking up to the fact their national rugby team have become a force to be reckoned with on the biggest stage of all.
But this did not happen overnight.
The devastating acceleration and agility of star wingers Kotaro Matsushima and Kenki Fukuoka , coupled with the heroic leadership of captain and back-rower Michael Leitch, deserve all plaudits that come their way, but there is more to the Brave Blossoms than their poster boys.
Japan have ball-playing ability from 1 to 15 – and on the replacements’ bench.
They have forwards with handling skills to rival that of opposition backs, capable of some outrageous offloads as demonstrated by hooker Shota Horie against Scotland.
The Brave Blossoms know their strengths lie with their fitness and are keen to maximise ball-in-play time, moving the ball away from the area of contact as quickly as possible.
After becoming the sporting story of the pool stage, the hosts face two-time winners South Africa in the l ast eight on Sunday. BBC Sport looks at the factors behind Japan’s rise.
- Japan determined to ‘prove people wrong’
- Quiz: Can you name England’s XV from 2015 Australia World Cup match?
- Are tier-two nations closing the gap?
Fighting on two fronts
Launching the Sunwolves into Super Rugby a few months after the 2015 tournament has brought huge benefits to the national team.
The Japanese players are now testing themselves against quality southern hemisphere opposition, a luxury they would not have with domestic Top League rugby only.
Althoughthe Sunwolves will no longer participate in Super Rugbyfrom 2021, they have played a pivotal role in Japan’s World Cup preparations.
An additional alignment between the national team and the Sunwolves across the past two seasons has seen head coach Jamie Joseph and assistant Tony Brown taking the reins of both teams, leading to the Super Rugby side becoming an extension of the Brave Blossoms.
Much of the attacking flair and nimble handling Japan have produced at the World Cup has been honed in Super Rugby.
Joseph and Brown even had the luxury last season of choosing which players featured for the Sunwolves, pulling out the majority of Japan’s World Cup squad for a series of intensive training camps and allowing the Brave Blossoms to perfect those set-piece routines and backs moves, and arguably make them the fittest team at the tournament.