TOKYO – England and South Africa square up to each other on Saturday to determine who will be crowned champion at Japan’s first Rugby World Cup.
The Asian nation’s staging of the event, which kicked off on Sept. 20, has been a huge success. Here are five of the more memorable moments.
Some teams are already psychologically beaten by the time the All Blacks reach the end of their haka. Not England, not this time. At the start of their semi-final the English players embraced the traditional Maori ceremonial challenge with a v-shape formation of their own before kickoff. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen described England’s response as both brilliant and imaginative, but World Rugby were less impressed, fining the English 2,000 pounds ($2,589.40) as some players had crossed the halfway line in breach of protocol.
Japan’s group-stage victory over the Irish was another incredible win in the mould of their 2015 ‘Miracle of Brighton’ felling of South Africa. But beating Scotland to reach the quarter-finals was next level. On an emotional night at Yokohama Stadium, the Brave Blossoms scored four tries to beat a team they had lost against in all seven of their previous meetings, reaching the knock-out stages for the first time. The victory was one for the ages, and lifted a nation still reeling from the deadly impact of Typhoon Hagibis.
David and Goliath
There have been few more stark mis-matches than the sight of the diminutive Faf de Klerk squaring up to man-mountain Jake Ball in South Africa’s semi-final against Wales. A dire game sparked into life in the 45th minute when simmering tensions briefly boiled over leaving the 1.72m Springbok leaning up into his 1.97m opponent who grabbed De Klerk’s collar. The pair were quickly separated, but the image spawned dozens of memes, some set to romantic music.
Canada left Japan without a win on the rugby field, but they won over an entire nation by helping to clean up flood-ravaged parts of Kamaishi following Typhoon Hagibis. The Canadians’ last game against Namibia was cancelled due to the typhoon with landslides and flooding affecting the area near the stadium. Instead the Canadian team visited places hit by the typhoon and helped sweep streets and clean out elderly residents’ flood-damaged homes.
The comically blood curdling Kabuki roar… imitated by many, mastered by few, the loud, prolonged shout was a firm favourite with fans inside stadiums. The scream, heard at every restart, was accompanied by a cartoon head peeping up from the bottom of the scoreboard. The traditional Japanese taiko drumming at the beginning of each match also contributed to the very Japanese flavour of this tournament.