The Rugby World Cup is now well underway in England and Wales, and rugby fans have possibly already seen one of its most surprising results and entertaining games. On the second day of the tournament, Japan defied the odds to earn a narrow 34-32 victory over South Africa. The result stunned the rugby world – prior to the result, South Africa had been hailed as possible tournament winners, having been already been crowned world cup champions in 1995 and 2007, whilst few outside the Japanese camp gave them a serious chance of success, with bookmakers classing them as 80-1 underdogs. It truly was a victory of Goliath-slaying proportions.
The game raised an interesting aspect about support fandom – the almost universal support for the complete underdog. Throughout the game, many neutrals became ardent supporters of the Japanese team – there are fantastic videos of wild celebrations of Japan’s game-sealing try amongst legions of Irish rugby fans who were watching the game outside the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff before watching their own team. Furthermore, the underdog effect has been strong and long-lasting. In their next game, Japan took on one of the home nations, Scotland. Although Scotland are not deemed to be as strong a team as South Africa, before the tournament they would have been expected to beat the Japanese team with relative ease. This is in fact what happened – they ran out 45-10 winners. Again though, many neutrals watching that game supported Japan. What is interesting here though is that although many Irish, Welsh and English fans might typically tend to support another home nation team in this sort of game, this was not the case here.
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