South Africa 32 – 34 Japan
That is the sound of the 2015 Rugby World Cup bursting open.
In overtime, with the Boks leading by just 3 points, a Japanese-fed scrum was set and re-set on the Springboks 5 -metre line: then the ball squirted out, went right, then right, then right again, before coming back left, and finally the substitute Japanese winger Karne Hesketh slid over in the corner.
Japan played beautifully the whole game long: the set piece worked like Seiko, the backs were more Lexus than Toyota. Physical skills and conditioning, of course, but the impressive thing was the rugby nous on display. It’s one thing for coach Eddie Jones to talk about plans and stratagems: it’s entirely another for players to get it under the skin. Now it’s a tattoo.
In truth, the Springboks were their own worst enemy (although the ref was a close second: just a shade too strict in the breakdown enforcement, I thought. But consistent, so you can’t complain too much.) They were apathetic in responding to the challenge of a New Japan, as if they couldn’t quite believe what has happening in front of them. Happening to them.
Experience, in the shape of Matfield and Burger and du Plessis and even de Villiers, was looking a bit like mere age.
If Pool A is the Pool of Death, this result just turned Pool B into the Pool of Eternal Life. Every team – South Africa, Japan, Samoa, Scotland, even USA – has got everything to play for. It will go right down to the wire.