Japan wing Karne Hesketh described his match-winning try against South Africa as the pinnacle of his career.
Hesketh’s 83rd-minute try – his first touch of the match after coming on as a late replacement – secured the greatest shock in World Cup history as the Brave Blossoms beat the Springboks 34-32 on Saturday.
“Before that game, just being involved in the World Cup was the pinnacle of my career. To be part of something like last night is so special.
“Just from the messages of support we received, it’s enormous. Not just from New Zealand and back home in Japan, but from worldwide. It’s awesome.”
Japan’s heroics sparked scenes of jubilation at Brighton’s AMEX Stadium, with several of their fans breaking into tears after the final whistle. Even head coach Eddie Jones admitted he had to check the scoreboard to make sure victory – their first at a World Cup since 1991 – was true.
And while Jones encouraged his players to enjoy their moment of history, Hesketh revealed celebrations were kept fairly low key. With aspirations of making the quarterfinals in England, Japan’s focus is now solely on Wednesday’s Pool B clash against Scotland.
“By the time we got to the team hotel it was pretty late,” Hesketh added. “We had a team dinner and celebrated together. We had a couple of beers but we had to control it. As much as we wanted to celebrate, it’s not the only job we came to do.
“All the physical stuff has been done [ahead of Scotland]. We just need to mentally prepare and improve if we can.
“If we’re mentally sharp, we’ll be good. It comes down to being prepared and doing everything as seriously as you can. Doing the off-field work too – studying your opposition, knowing your plays, what kind of stuff we want to do.”