History-making Japan goes bonkers | Sunday Observer

History-making Japan goes bonkers

Japanese rugby fans at the World Cup cheer their team
Japanese rugby fans at the World Cup cheer their team

TOKYO AFP: Long queues for replica shirts, desperate searches for tickets and TV stations showing Japan’s wins on a loop: excitement is building ahead of the host nation’s historic Rugby World Cup quarter-final against South Africa.

In baseball-mad Japan, rugby coverage is still secondary to the national passion but a day before kick-off against the Springboks, the oval-ball game was having its moment in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The Yomiuri Shimbun educated its millions of readers on scrummaging technique in a piece entitled: “The scrum of Sakura (Cherry Blossoms, the Japan team’s original nickname), a precision machine.”

The article explained some of the mysteries of the scrum to a public noting how the forwards adjust their body position by a matter of centimetres to achieve maximum pressure.

Even the financial press have been carrying rugby articles, with the Nikkei business daily drafting in former player Kensuke Iwabuchi to comment on Sunday’s match-up -- Japan’s World Cup quarter-final.

Iwabuchi said the key to the match would lie in “discipline and patience” and noted how home advantage was proving to be a critical factor in the Brave Blossoms’ winning streak.

“The cheers from the crowd has been a big supporting force. In the match against Scotland, it was as if the 15 were not fighting against 15 but 70,015,” he said, adding that tickets had been sold out for almost all matches. Rugby tickets are now like gold dust in Japan, with several fans taking to Twitter to plead for spares. “Could someone sell me one or two Japan-South Africa tickets please? I’ve heard there would be some ticket sales on the day but probably you can’t get one unless you queue up from the previous day,” one desperate man tweeted. Those not lucky enough to have tickets are watching in huge numbers on TV. A peak of more than 50 percent of the country tuned in to watch Japan’s last pool game against Scotland according to ratings company Video Research.