Japanese fans suffer 'rugby loss' grief after courageous Brave Blossoms exit World Cup

A Japanese woman watches the rugby match in a fan zone in Oita, Japan, on Oct 20, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese captivated by their Brave Blossoms rugby team's historic run to the World Cup quarter-finals are now suffering a new form of bereavement - "rugby loss" - after their home team were bundled out of the tournament by South Africa.

Fans were still feeling bereft days after cheering the Blossoms into the quarter-finals of the first World Cup to be held outside the heartlands of the game, a match Japan lost to South Africa 26-3 on Sunday (Oct 20).

It was the end of a brilliant campaign which saw Japan beat traditional rugby heavyweights Ireland and Scotland to get to the last eight for the first time, proving to the world how far the game had come in a nation trounced 145-17 by New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup.

The tournament has created an explosion of interest in the game in Japan, including from many who had never watched the sport and had little if any understanding of its rules.

"I'm so sad that I can't see the Japanese players any more," said Hiroko Kudo, 59, at a sport goods shop in downtown Tokyo.

"The day after they lost (to South Africa) the players were on television so I watched them but I didn't see them yesterday and today, and I'm sad," said Kudo, who had tickets for Japan's winning first-round match against Russia.

Fans struggling with rugby deprivation supported each other through the Twitter thread #rugbyloss.

"For one month, they excited us and gave is courage, but now it's over and I'm so sad. I've got 'rugby loss'," said one tweet earlier this week.

"There were lots of kinds of 'loss', but now 'rugby loss' has joined them," tweeted another fan.

Ayaka Toyoda, 38, said watching the matches had been a learning experience for her sons, aged 11 and eight.

"Japan matches are finished, but we got strength from the team. I think my sons learnt discipline and respect for opponents... and the importance of trying hard," she said.

Shozo Niwata, 48, who travelled to Oita in south-west Japan to see Wales beat France on Sunday and then watched Japan lose to South Africa at a public viewing that evening, was upbeat.

"There are players who are retiring but there are also a lot of young players so I'm looking forward to the next World Cup," he said.

In the semi-finals, England play three-time champions New Zealand on Saturday (Oct 26) while Wales take on South Africa on Sunday. Both games are in Yokohama.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.