A true David & Goliath tale

October 12, 2022
3 min read

The 15th of September 2015. Brighton Community Stadium. South Africa, Pool B favourites, ranked second in the World, two time World Champions. Japan, ranked 11th in the world, the second lowest ranked team in Pool B, having not won a Rugby World Cup match since beating Zimbabwe in 1991… for anyone that doesn’t remember what happened, watch the video below:

The Rugby World Cup is no stranger to last minute fireworks. Springbok fans will fondly remember Joel Stransky’s extra time drop goal to win the 1995 World Cup and how could we forget Jonny Wilkinson’s heroics in 2003. This, however, was a crescendo that resulted in an upset the likes of which the rugby world had never seen, firmly cementing the Brave Blossoms place in the history books - so much so, the moment has now been immortalised on the silver screen in “The Brighton Miracle”.

Who doesn’t love an underdog? This was a true David and Goliath tale. I remember watching this particular game very clearly. I had played my own game of rugby earlier that day away at Jersey Reds. It’s always one of my favourite away games as it feels like a mini mid-season tour. As the Rugby World Cup was taking place, most semi-professional and amateur games had moved their kick offs to earlier in the day so that players could enjoy watching the action following their own matches.

Jersey are known for their post-match hospitality and that day was no different. Following our game both sides met in the club house to enjoy a roast dinner and a "lemonade" or two…

The game was on the big screen in the background and to start with, no one was paying it much attention - the vast majority of us expecting a routine walk over for the Boks. With 10-minutes left on the clock, however, and the score locked at 29-29, there was not a single person not on the edge of their seat, with everyone routing for Japan. Well, everyone except our South African prop Ali, watching the game through his fingers.

When Handre Pollard slotted a three pointer with five minutes left to play, it looked like SA would salvage a result, much to Ali’s relief and our dismay. The ensuing final 5 minutes of regular time, and the four minutes after the clock went into the red, was filled with Japanese attack after Japanese attack until Karne Hesketh dived over in the corner to seal the historic win.

You can imagine the scenes in the club house. Beer everywhere, tables and chairs sent flying, people jumping and screaming wherever you looked - and Ali no where to be seen. He quickly slipped out the door to avoid the inevitable banter coming his way.

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