JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Former Springboks coach Nick Mallett hailed Japan as "exceptional and extraordinary" opponents after their sensational 34-32 Rugby World Cup triumph over twice champions South Africa on Saturday.
"It was an exceptional and extraordinary performance," the man who guided his country to third at the 1999 World Cup said on SuperSport TV.
South Africa are one of the leading rugby nations while few give Japan a chance of getting past the group stage.
A last minute try at the Pool B match in Brighton, England secured the biggest upset in the history of the global showpiece since its 1987 debut.
"The patience of the Japanese in the build-up to the match-winning try has to be lauded," said Mallett. "And Jesse Kriel will be embarrassed by the way he was handed off during the move.
"South Africa defended poorly with veterans Jean de Villiers and JP Pietersen being pushed around at times.
"The Springboks were also poorly organised and the only positive they can take from this match is two bonus points."
Mallett praised Japan, whose coach Eddie Jones was an advisor to the 2007 South Africa World Cup-winning team, for their speed, tenacity and defending.
"They never allowed South Africa to get away from them on the scoreboard. They hung in and hung in and were eventually rewarded.
"The decision to kick for touch at the death in search of a match-winning try rather than take a penalty, which would have earned a draw, has to be praised."
Ashwin Willemse, a winger in the 2003 Springboks World Cup squad, said on the same SuperSport show that Japan had been "unbelievable."
"This was a miraculous victory and fully deserved.
"I loved the way the Japanese competed and how creative and composed they were. Defensively, they were outstanding."
Former Wales forward Colin Charvis feared finger-pointing among the Springboks.
"You want the dust to settle and hope for quiet reflection - but that is not often the way it works, with lots of negative finger waving.
"I anticipated there would be about seven tries in the match - but not four to South Africa and three to Japan.
"It was an amazing result and you have to feel for South Africa because it is such a passionate rugby country.
"But full praise to the Japanese for fighting back every time they fell behind. Their heads never bowed and the belief that they could win remained intact throughout.
"Japan boxed far above their weight and have thrown Pool B wide open."
South Africa play again next Saturday, against Samoa in Birmingham, and also meet Scotland and the United States.