South Africa looked stunned after the final whistle in their match against Japan

The reactions in the South African press to the Springboks’ stunning 34-32 defeat by Japan at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday ranged from the acerbic to the mournful as the nation continued to reel in shock. The country’s top publications look to have been caught out, having already laid out their front pages expecting a routine win, a short mention and fuller coverage within the sports pages.

South Africa’s Sunday Times did devote the entire front page of their later edition to the reaction to the result, suggesting the coach Heyneke Meyer’s “old man” game plan would lead to him being relieved of his duties once the tournament was over under the headline “Bok heads to roll.”

They devoted plenty of column inches to praising Japan and their coach, Eddie Jones, whom the newspaper suggests will lead the Cape Town-based Stormers Super Rugby franchise next season, although the Australian has previously said he is in talks only with the union.

The City Press likened the surprise of the result to the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941. “Boks downed in Pearl Harbor” screamed the headline followed by the line: “Shrewdly coached samurai warriors produce their greatest performance as they show their superiority in first match.”

The Sunday Independent said: “SA shamed by minnows Japan.” The Cape Town-based Weekend Argus ran an image of emotional Japanese players after their victory, along with the caption “Boks banzied” and the headline “Brave Blossoms beat stunned Springboks.”

They went on to call the defeat “humiliating” for South Africa and “perhaps the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history.”