JOHANNESBURG – Japan’s Brave Blossoms are the story of this year’s Rugby World Cup. But talk of them joining the Rugby Championship is premature and ludicrous. And let’s not even start on the debate about the Sunwolves being readmitted to Super Rugby.
As good as Japan have been at this year’s World Cup on home turf - qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time - they’re not ready, or strong enough, to be a competitive force in the Rugby Championship. And, the Sunwolves’ results in Super Rugby over the last four years are simply not good enough for them to justify playing in the competition post the 2020 season.
The reality is this: Japan qualified and played at all nine Rugby World Cup tournaments, going back to 1987, but they’ve won only eight times in 33 matches. They’ve lost 23 times and drawn two matches.
In 1991 Japan beat Zimbabwe 52-8, but then in 1995 at the tournament in South Africa they suffered the massive 145-17 defeat to New Zealand in Bloemfontein. In 2007 and 2011 they registered 12-all and 23-all draws against Canada and then properly came to life four years ago in England.
They beat the Boks 34-32 in a Pool B game in Brighton and also registered wins against Samoa and the USA, but lost to Scotland, and because they failed to pick up any bonus points finished third in the pool and missed out on a place in the quarter-finals - becoming the first team to win three out of four and miss out.