A captivating run to the quarter-finals could provide an enduring rugby legacy in Japan

The Japanese juggernaut finally came to a halt in the face of a South African roadblock on Sunday. The sequel to the Brighton miracle lacked the drama and romance of four years ago but this, according to their fans, was when the Brave Blossoms truly came of age against the world rugby elite.

“I think South Africa looked down on Japan four years ago but today they knew they had to be at their best, and that’s a huge compliment to Japan,” said Shigeki Takagi, a company worker from Tokyo who had just witnessed his country play in a World Cup quarter-final for the first time. “We’ve beaten Ireland and Scotland and now I think we’re getting really close to the level of the northern hemisphere teams. Who knows what could happen four years from now?”

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Read More 'Everyone’s a fan now': Japan brims with pride after hosts exit World Cup | Justin McCurry

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