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Locals in Japan


Twitterite and RW commentator Sackey has been following our local stars in Japan and gives us a lowdown on what is happening to our boys there.








Hi, dear South African rugby lovers, I’m a big Bok fan from the Far East

As you ALREADY know these days so many South Africans have opted for playing in Japan. To me, it is like living in a dream to see my favorites playing in front of me… I used to watch them in midnight in the small display of my PC except some SR games/Tri Nations…

However, I’m so concerned with the situation that you guys cannot get any information as to what your own heroes are doing in Japan… For example, JP Pietersen now plays at 13 with Berrick Barnes at 10 in the same team, but no one reports about it for the world rugby fans… That irritate me a lot…OK, I’ve been travelling around my country with my digital camera, chasing after those Saffas (haha!) so I will provide you with some news in Japan Top league, hopefully with photos.

Please note I’m not a professional writer, just a SA rugby fan without any technical background. This is my opinion and thought. And sorry for my poor English


The regulation of Japan Top League was drastically changed this year. We have now 16 teams, which were divided into 2 groups. Top 4 of each group in the 1st stage go for Group A for play-off contention, while the other 8 in Group B have to battle so to avoid relegation and obtain the change for playing in the Japan Championship.. We just finished the 1st stage on October 27, 2013 and the result is as follows (left: SA players, if any/notable foreign players):

Group A

Suntory Sungoliath (Fourie Du Preez / George Smith (AUS))











Panasonic Wild Knights (JP Pietersen / Berrick Barnes (AUS), *Robbie Deans as short-term special coach)










NEC Green Rockets (- / Nemani Nadolo (Fiji), Gareth Delve (Wales))

Yamaha Jubilo (Dewald Potgieter / Mose Tuialii (NZ))










Kobelco Steelers (Jaque Fourie, Peter Grant, Andries Bekker / Craig Wing(ex-rugby league)




























Toshiba Brave Lupus (- / Cooper Vuna (AUS), Steven Bates (NZ))

Toyota Verblitz (- / Jerome Kaino (NZ))

Canon Eagles (- / Isaia Toeava (NZ), Adam Thomson (NZ))

Group B

NTT Communications Shining Arcs (*Jake White as part-time defense coach/ Isaac Ross (NZ), Alesana Tuilagi (Samoa))

Kubota Spears (- / Kade Poki (NZ), Sam Norton-Knight (AUS))

Toyota Industries Corporation Shuttles (Ryan Kankowski / Mark Gerrard (AUS))











Kintetsu Liners (- / Radike Samo (AUS), Rico Gear (NZ))

NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes (Heinrich Brussow, Wimpie van der Walt, Riaan Viljoen / Mils Muliaina (NZ))





























Ricoh Black Rams (- / Tamati Ellison (NZ), Riki Flutey (Eng))

Kyuden Voltex (- / Dwayne Sweeney (NZ))

Coca Cola West Red Sparks (- / Eliota Sapolu (Samoa), Solomon King (NZ))

* Jacque Potgieter belongs to SANIX BLUES (2nd tier league), and he has not yet played any official games due to hand injury.

…A bit tired of listing so many personal names…Then I would like to point out 3 big problems in the league here.


You may be a bit surprised to know how many foreign players representing their nations are now in Japan. However, the numbers of foreign players who can in the pitch at the same time was reduced from “3” to “2” in 2012. This is a very serious problem (to me, it was a big disappointment that Mossie, Bekker and Grant cannot play together!!!!) I think it is not fair that many foreign players can’t sit even on the bench and have to watch games from the stands. Some Oceanian players even acquire Japanese nationalities while we have a special quota for players having “Asian” passport. This strange quote is for promoting rugby in Asia area.

Meanwhile, Japanese people are “adorers” of All Blacks brand and treat them like fragile articles, so many Kiwis with injury come to Japan for “rehab with high salary”. You can see Muliaina in relax mode next to your seat in the stadium, or Kaino pushing a bottom of a vending machine for a canned drink with his lunchbox… Very strange experiences!!


Many Japanese Top League players are not professional. They are company employees, they work for half a day and then go for training sessions. So injuries are private matter of “employees”, not public matters of “players”. I don’t know this is the main reason but we cannot get any injury updates. So it is difficult to predict when the injured players will come back. Ever, we cannot know whether they are really injured, or there are any other problems preventing them from the games…



Thank you for reading this looooong article. Next time I will write about some impressive games in the 1st stage (of course Saffas’ :))

Bye for now.



*** special moment: meeting your ex-teammates in Far East***

meet meet2









  1. Great stuff… it’s almost impossible to follow the leagues over there…

    Love that pic of Bekker… giant amongst the rest…

    On song and he’d still more than likely make my Bok side…

    Interesting that JPP is at 13 too…

  2. Riaan Viljoen is in Japan now???
    Thought he was still with the Sharks ( otherwise known as the place Cheetahs go to die)?

    Thanks for this article.

    Any comments on former Lion Todd Clever?

  3. very good piece; Rugby in Japan is developing slowly. Will be interesting to see how 2019 goes.

  4. I did not know Robbie Deans was helping out over there.

    Lovely article, keep ’em coming, nice to hear about the goings on on that side of the world.

  5. I am very happy to see this. Sackey you sell yourself short… this piece is exactly the kind of thing we’d like to know. Thanks for the heads up on the info. It helps tremendously to see where our guys are.

    Japan must be paying a premium if you consider that Brussouw, Bekker, Pietersen and Fourie are probably all good enough to still start for the Boks in 2013.

  6. Thanks for a good article. Interesting pictures, those Saffers look at home in Japan – most of all that shot of Dewald Potgieter. At first glance I thought he was playing in his Bulls jersey until I saw Yamaha on the Bulls-like light blue / dark blue jersey.

  7. We want more!
    SA media has had just about nothing about
    Boks playing in Japan, their season, competitions etc.

  8. Boertjie
    It’s as though we’re as Anglo Centric as the other top sides who grudgingly like the Frogs when it comes to caring about other international sides playing rugby.

  9. :applause: :applause: :applause:

    Good job! Thanks for the pictures and perspective from over there!

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