BRIGHTON, England -- It's easy to see why Japan head coach Eddie Jones believes his side can make the quarterfinals in England. A team that had not won a World Cup game since 1991 produced an astonishing performance to shock the most experienced South Africa side in history. Not only was it the biggest win in Japan's entire Test history, it was one of the biggest World Cup wins of all time.
For much of the Pool B opener, South Africa had little or no answer. They weren't even particularly bad -- Japan were simply awesome. At times, it was hard to distinguish between the Tier Two nation and the two-time world champions. Heyneke Meyer's side simply could not cope with Japan's incredible power in the set-piece.
It's not like they weren't warned: Coach and former France prop Phillip de Villiers said as much last week. The Brave Blossoms have one of the most-improved packs in world rugby. It was evident against Georgia a fortnight ago and even more so on Saturday.
The early loss of try-threat Kensuke Hatakeyama failed to dampen Japan's spirits or their forward supremacy. It took a couple of tries from the experienced hands of Francois Louw and Bismarck Du Plessis to settle South Africa down, either side of a grounded effort from Japan captain Michael Leitch that brought the house down.
Japan played without fear. The 880 Test caps standing in front of them were treated like bobble hats, and with each roar from the crowd, they seemed to double in size. Springboks fans gazed nervously into their pint pots and begged for a half-time whistle.
It didn't change anything. Whatever South Africa threw at Japan, Jones' side matched with swashbuckling style. Adriaan Strauss' try on the hour mark was completely blitzed by a ridiculous run from man-of-the-match Ayumu Goromaru. Thirty thousand people left gobsmacked as Japan turned beast into spell-binding beauty.
Goromaru stole the show. A 24-point haul against the third-favourite side in the competiton would have been laughed out of town an hour before kickoff. He encapsulated his team's never-say-die spirit and was, at times, unplayable.
So was the Japanese scrum. Throughout the second half the front eight applied immense pressure to the shoulders of their opposite numbers. Even in the dying embers of an enthralling game, after Handre Pollard had given South Africa a narrow lead with a penalty, it appeared nigh on unbreakable.
And just like they did against Georgia at Kingsholm two weeks ago, Japan looked to have won it with a superb maul try. However, not for the first occasion in this World Cup, the TMO intervened and ruled it out to a chorus of boos.
It did not faze them. With 83 minutes on the clock, when it looked like South Africa's defence had withstood all that had been thrown at it, Japan found a breakthrough. Replacement Karne Hesketh raced clear and dived into the corner to produce one of the greatest World Cup moments in history.
It shocked South Africa -- and it shocked the world. Japan's performance will not only give the minnows the same belief for the rest of the tournament -- this is a performance that will be talked about for years to come. Jones hopes his side can make the last eight. Saturday's victory in Brighton showed it is not an unthinkable dream.