Appco Group’s Global Head of Communications Jessica McCahon reflects on Japan’s unexpected win over South Africa’s rugby superstars, and what business owners and entrepreneurs in Appco’s network can learn from their courageous performance.
It’s being hailed as one of the greatest upsets in sporting history – an awe-inspiring, spine-tingling display of courage, teamwork and determination in the face of global dismissal.
It is, of course, Japan’s shock win over South Africa’s Springboks in the Rugby World Cup on the weekend.
To say Japan was the underdog is an understatement. They had not won a Rugby World Cup match since 1991 – not one. Meanwhile, South Africa hasn’t lost a first-round match in 20 years and has held the trophy aloft multiple times.
Needless to say, South Africa was expected to breeze through this match. And yet, Japan didn’t just show up on Saturday night, they came out firing, displaying skill, determination and teamwork from the get-go.
They kept the pressure on their opponents throughout the first 78 minutes of play. But it was the final minutes that truly demonstrated Japan’s never-say-die determination – and, just as importantly, their trust in their fellow team members’ skills – which ultimately saw them defeat one of the best rugby teams in the world.
Moments before the whistle, Japan were awarded a penalty and could have taken the safe option of a penalty kick, which would have resulted in a draw. Easy, safe, expected.
But Japan didn’t take the easy route; they made the brave decision to take the scrum with just one minute remaining. Against all odds – and the far heavier, more powerful South African scrum pack – Japan held their ground, nailed the try and won the game 34 to 32!
It was a beautiful moment – sheer ecstasy and elation from the team and huge respect from the crowd and, to their credit, the defeated Springboks.
They could so easily have caved under the weight of 24 years of losses and played it safe to ‘just get through’ this first match. So, no matter what your individual allegiances were on Saturday, it was impossible to remain unmoved by Japan’s attitude and ability to give it their all despite everyone else having already written them off.
Whether you’re a rugby fan or not, Japan’s performance shows all of us that if you work hard, keep picking yourself up no matter how many defeats you endure, ignore the critics and back yourself when it comes to the crunch, anything is possible.