TOKYO 17 Oct - They have been dubbed Japan's twin Ferraris: dashing wingers Kotaro Matsushima and Kenki Fukuoka have delivered nine of the team's 13 tries to propel their team into the knockout stages for the first time - and now they stand ready to play their role in the team's clash with South Africa.

Matushima, above left, has shrugged off plaudits from coach Jamie Joseph, insisting he is but a humble servant of his team. 

"This isn't an individual sport so I'll be putting my team first," he said, "but when the ball comes around I want to take them on with my footwork and pace and showcase myself."

Matsushima started his second World Cup in blistering fashion as he ran in a hat-trick against Russia on 20 September to hand his team a welcome bonus-point in a 30-10 Japan win.

He secured another bonus-point in the 38-19 victory over Samoa on 5 October, when he crossed for his team's fourth try after the gong.

Born in South Africa to a Zimbabwean father and Japanese mother, Matsushima left for Japan at the age of six, but returned to South Africa at age 12 when he was introduced to rugby. After graduating from high school in Japan, he joined the Sharks Academy in Durban, where he stayed for three years.

He made his World Cup debut in England in 2015. In that tournament, he played his part in Japan's famous victory over South Africa and scored his first RWC try against the USA.

He has impressed with his strength and speed, but when it comes to pace, he says his fellow winger has the better of him. "For me, the Ferrari is Kenki Fukuoka," he says.

Fukuoka, though, laughed off the praise from his teammate and modestly parried that, "Ferraris are sometimes known for their poor fuel efficiency". 

The older of the two, Fukuoka, pictured above right, hurt his calf in Japan's pre-tournament warm-up game against South Africa on 6 September and only found his name on the team sheet hours before their Ireland game on 28 September when centre William Tupou was hurt in the captain's run.

His intervention was decisive, though, coming on in the second half to score what turned out to be the winning try to down the pool favourites 19-12. He also recorded a try against Samoa after coming off the bench.

For some Scotland fans, Fukuoka might have been in the back of their minds before the final RWC 2019 pool match against the hosts, as he had scored two tries against Scotland in a match in November 2013 - his debut year with the Brave Blossoms - which Japan lost 42-17.

His only appearance at RWC 2015, however, was against Scotland when Japan were defeated 45-10. He did no damage then.

But he was instrumental in Japan's 28-21 win over Scotland in their crucial pool match on 13 October, beginning with an exquisite offload to Matsushima 17 minutes in that led to the first try.

Then he repeated his personal double of six years before in what was perhaps the biggest game in Japan's rugby history.

First, Fukuoka collected a high-bouncing ball and dived over the line in the 39th minute, then robbed the ball from Scotland centre Chris Harris two minutes after the interval to run the entire opposing half and score Japan's fourth try - cementing another historic win.

Fukuoka started playing the game at the age of five and was part of the rugby sevens side that finished fourth in the sport's maiden Olympic appearance in 2016. He has his heart set on making the Tokyo Olympics before he pursues a career as a doctor like his father and grandfather before him.

While Matsushima awaits another opportunity to face his country of birth, Fukuoka has his final World Cup appearance to look forward to, enough reason to be motivated for yet another historic day.

"We've made the new history for the Japanese rugby, I can't feel better," he said after clinching the last eight spot. "We really sacrificed everything for this moment." 

RNS mn/djk/ajr