JAPAN stunned the rugby world when they defeated South Africa and Cooper Vuna believes the shock result could transform the way people view the sport in Asia.
Before this year’s Rugby World Cup, Japan had not won a game in the competition since 1991 and were notably thrashed 83–7 by New Zealand in 2011 and 91-3 by Australia in 2007.
But against all the odds, Karne Hesketh went over in the final minute to secure a dramatic 34-31 victory over former world champions Springboks in Brighton.
Warriors wing Vuna described it as one of the best games he had ever seen and having spent two years playing in Japan he said he knows how important that result was.
“It is going to be massive for the country,” Vuna said. “Kids over in Japan are now going to want to play rugby. It is not a dominant sport of there.
“So this is going to open a lot of doors for the kids and that’s what they need. They need a lot of kids coming through the ranks and trying to build on this moment. With Super Rugby starting up again, Japanese people are going to put their hands up and support it and play for the team, which is good.”
Japan could have taken a draw with a late penalty, but instead they went for the line-out which resulted in the match-winning try and Vuna said he was not surprised by captain Michael Leitch’s decision.
“I have got a bunch of friends in that squad, including the captain who I am quite close with,” he said. “He has been working for ages for that moment, so for him to pull it off is awesome.
“I knew he had it in him and I knew he wasn’t going to go for the points. It was a big call for him to take that line-out.
“It shows a lot of confidence by not just himself, but the whole squad and to finish it off was one of the best things ever.”