Rugby World Cup 2015: Japan-South Africa, the incredible triumph of the "Brave Blossoms"

2015 Rugby World Cup: England was hosting the world’s best players of the oval ball, with a few matches taking place in Cardiff, Wales. The favourites? The usual ones: New Zealand’s "All Blacks", South Africa "Springboks", Australia, Ireland and Wales. In that regard, the forecasts were not wrong (New Zealand ultimately won the Cup), but for a surprise: the Japanese rugby team.

Before the knockout stage, there was the Cup group stage: the only team qualified for Asia was Japan. The Japanese rugby team – with its nickname: "Brave Blossoms” - had been inserted in the B group, along with South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and the United States. Not exactly comforting, especially since 2015 South Africa of the time was a great team, although in a waning phase compared to the glories of the 90s and early '00.

The sheer power of determination
Japan seemed to be the group scapegoat and a comparison of the world ranking between the two teams is merciless: South Africa is in 3rd place, Japan in 13th.

There should be no match. Instead.

Instead, on September 19, 2015 at the Community Stadium in Brighton it would have been played what many still call one of the most incredible games in the history of rugby. In 82 minutes of passion, courage, intensity, David managed to defeat Goliath, thanks to a mix of faith, courage and intelligence.
One clear goal
It was 10' from the end of the match and the situation seemed balanced: 29 tied. Then, South Africa pushed forward, taking the lead with a score of 32 to 29. It seemed the end for the Brave Blossoms. However, Japan did not give up. It feels that the unthinkable still has a microscopic glimmer to become reality. It did not want a tie, which would already be a resounding result, but a clear victory. So South Africa was besieged. There were not even minutes left, but seconds: 65'', a lap of the smallest hand and it would have been over.

The last minute of the match, Japan in hell, South Africa in paradise.

The score is 32 to 29 for the African gazelles. From a free-kick turned into a touche - a lineout - the Japanese rugby team went to goal, but the referee cancels. It was not over yet. The last scrum at 5 meters, time expired, the very last action: Karne Hesketh, three-quarters New Zealander wing in the national team of Japan, took the oval ball beyond the goal. Japan won 34 to 32: a feat that went down in the history of rugby.

Style of play of the Japanese rugby team

The Brave Blossoms’ style of play is even to this day characterized by high mobility, especially on the wings, to the expense of a weaker defence. This is due to their smaller, more agile body frame and their mastery of mobile tactics, which allow them to hold much bigger players despite the physical disadvantage, as witnessed in their scrums with more physical nations, like in their match with South Africa.
Rugby is not all about brute strength

Strengthen power with 3 simple exercises

Rugby is the power game par excellence, as it requires explosive power rushes at maximum speed and strength. Power is in fact the product of strength and speed, meaning that a sole training based on strength development would not be adequate for rugby players.

The same applies to wing players, who do rely on sprints and charges towards the goal, but still need the physical prowess necessary to tackle opposing players charging at them.

Why power is a determinant in rugby
Therefore, a power based training regimen, specific for the role of each player, is necessary. A professional rugby player would usually trains 5 days a week, two at the gym and three on the field. While at the gym, regardless of his role in the team, each rugby player would usually perform these three exercises:

  1. 1. Box Squat
  2. 2. Power Clean
  3. 3. Military press

1.  Box Squat

Starting from the initial position, stand upright with extended knees; space the feet as far apart as the width of the hips and resting well on the ground and weight on the back of the foot – feet facing forward and slightly outwards. Head and eyes must be facing forward, with the barbell resting on the shoulder blades; hands in a prone position and palms facing upwards and forward - grip of the hands on the balance slightly wider than the width of the shoulders.
From the starting position, bend your hips and ankle in a controlled manner until the lower part of the buttock touches the box placed behind you - knees should not exceed excessively the tips of the feet. Maintain the normal physiological curves of the spine throughout the arc of movement - shoulder blades always adduced and depressed - head always facing forward or possibly forward / up (without hyper extending the neck). Return to the starting position by extending knees, hips and ankle simultaneously.

2. Power Clean

Begin with the bar on the floor positioned above your feet. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, squat down and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. In a squat position, pull your shoulder blades down and back.
Pull the bar off the floor by powerfully extending your legs, making sure to keep your back flat and your chest up.  The bar should travel vertically in a straight line. Once the bar is above your knees, shift your torso to a vertical position and bend your knees once more, this time just slightly. This is the scoop.

Initiate the second and most powerful portion of the movement by violently jumping straight up, fully extending your hips, knees and ankles (triple extension), while simultaneously shrugging the bar with your shoulders. Keep the bar as close to your body as possible. Drop into a semi-squat position. Drive your elbows forward to rotate them around in the bar and catch the bar in the racked position across the front of your shoulders with your fingertips under the bar. Afterwards, push up into a fully standing position.

3. Military Press

Start by placing a barbell that is about chest high on a squat rack. Once you have selected the weights, grab the barbell using a pronated grip. The grip on the bar should be wider than shoulder width. Slightly bend the knees and place the barbell on your collarbone. Lift the barbell up keeping it lying on your chest. Take a step back and position your feet shoulder width apart from each other.
Once you pick up the barbell with the correct grip length, lift the bar up over your head by locking your arms. Hold at about shoulder level and slightly in front of your head. Lower the bar down to the collarbone slowly as you inhale. Lift the bar back up to the starting position as you exhale. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

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