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Rio 2016: Japan success shows Sevens belongs

2016-08-11 17:50
Japan celebrate reaching the semi-finals of the Olympic Sevens (Getty)

Deodoro - South Africans are all too familiar with Japan's ability to cause an upset on the rugby field, and now so too are New Zealand and France. 

The Japanese are the great shock of the Sevens tournament at Rio 2016. 

Following their stunning 14-12 victory over New Zealand on Tuesday, they then pulled off a last-second 12-7 win against the French in Wednesday's quarter-final. 

It is one of the great underdog stories of the Games so far and on Thursday the Japanese will take on tournament favourites Fiji in the semi-finals. 

New Zealand, meanwhile, are out. 

It is a scenario that perfectly illustrates the unpredictability of Sevens and one that will delight World Rugby in their endeavour to make rugby a truly global game.

In the semi-finals there will be a team from Africa (Blitzboks), a team from Asia (Japan), a team from the South Pacific (Fiji) and one from Europe. (Great Britain).

So far the decision to include Sevens at the Olympics has been completely justified, and Japan's remarkable story plays a significant part in that being the case.

But while the world may be surprised at the progression of the Japanese, Blitzboks skipper Kyle Brown is not.

"I’m just hoping that South Africa doesn’t meet them … you saw what happened in the World Cup," Brown joked after his side had progressed to the last four with a win over Australia.

"They’re a quality team. I think what’s great about Japan is that we’ve been over there and actually coached at a junior level.

"They’re incredibly disciplined people and if they get told to do a job and stick to a game-plan they do. They’ve done it throughout these couple of days on the field."

The Blitzboks face Great Britain in their semi-final so they might not meet Japan at all, but if they do then Brown knows what to expect.

"They tackle incredibly hard and work incredibly hard off the ball to make sure the opposition doesn’t get through their line," he said.

"They’ve got good skills that are up there and they’re playing some great rugby at the moment." 

South Africa's two-try hero Seabelo Senatla looked thrilled to hear that Japan had won their quarter-final, but he was also not overly shocked by their success.

"Japan are crazy," he said.

"It’s an amazing thing. We always said that, coming into the Olympics, any team could take it on the day.

"Teams are going to bring their best because there is no other tournament next week. They’re doing pretty well and I’m sure they’re on a high right now."

Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...

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