Along with countless millions of others the world over, I watched in amazement and disbelief earlier today as the Japanese rugby team – the Brave Blossoms – defeated the South African Springboks in their opening game of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. If you’re not familiar with the game of rugby, then I cannot think of a comparison in another sport that would do justice to what the Brave Blossoms achieved, so I’ll simply relay the facts in the hope that they’ll help to convey the magnitude of this result.
The Japanese had not won a World Cup game in 24 years, since 1991, whereas the South Africans had not only never lost an opening game, but had also gone on to become world champions twice, in 1995 and 2007. Given the sheer size and combined experience of the South Africans, compared to their Japanese counterparts, I almost chose not to watch this encounter as I was fairly sure that the South Africans would win by as many as 60 or even 90 unanswered points, but it was not to be. Despite the enormity of the task facing them, the Brave Blossoms clearly believed from the outset that they could triumph and so it proved to be, while it has to be said that they won fair and square; not as a result of a fluke, nor as a result of any contentious decisions.
I played rugby for 6 years when I was at school at Monmouth in the 1970s and while I was never an outstanding player in any way, the experience of playing this brutal and demanding game helped to imbue me with with a sense of confidence and self-belief that has never deserted me. In recent times, however, on account of the maddening ailment that’s plagued me, this sense of self-belief has been very sorely tested, so I say a heartfelt “thank you” to the Brave Blossoms for reminding me that all things are possible.