‘Japan move best for me’

Keegan Daniel speaks to SIMON BORCHARDT about why he's signed a two-year contract with the Kubota Spears and his time at the Sharks.

On Friday, Daniel confirmed that he would be furthering his career in Japan and leaving the Sharks after the current Super Rugby season.

It does not come as a surprise as Daniel, who captained the Sharks to their Currie Cup title win last year, was not give that role by new coach Jake White, who instead opted for Bismarck du Plessis. Daniel was also never going to be a first-choice selection under White, who believes size matters.

In an interview with SARugbymag.co.za, Daniel explained his move.

Apart from the money, what appealed to you about playing club rugby in Japan?
It's about new challenges and new goals. I think club rugby in Japan is on the up and I want to be part of the journey. It's not only a different competition but also a completely new cultural experience.

Did you consider Europe?
Yes, but after weighing up all my options, I felt that moving to Japan was the best for me.

How did you end up signing with the Kubota Spears?
After having worked closely with my agent for the past few months, regarding a pending move overseas, the offer was put on the table by the Kubota Spears and I signed a pre-contract later that day.

What do you know about the club?
I know they are based just outside of Tokyo, they are a mid-table side, according to last season's results. There's still a lot for me to learn but that's part of the exciting journey ahead.

How do you feel about leaving the Sharks, a team you spent nine years with?
It really has been a time full of great memories and as much as moving on is part of life, it's also a sad time. It's all I have known since joining the Sharks Academy in 2004 and Durban has become home. I will always look back and be eternally grateful for what the Sharks have done, not only for my career but for developing my character into who I've become today.

What were the highlights of your time at the Sharks?
I will never forget my debut against the Reds in 2006 – as 21-year-old it really is a jaw-dropping moment. Other highlights include winning the Currie Cup in 2008 for the first time in 12 years, and again in 2010 after which I made the Springbok end-of-year tour squad and got my first Test cap against Ireland. And who can forget the win against Western Province in last year's Currie Cup final, after so many changes at the union. It was definitely one of the most satisfying campaigns.

What will you miss the most about being with them?
The main thing I will miss, and the thing I appreciate the most, are the people I have met and the friendships I have made over all these years. From team-mates, stadium workers to our admin staff, these are the people who made the journey worthwhile.

When do your Japanese lessons start?
[Laughs] They better start soon. It's not the easiest language to master, but that's all part of the adventure.

Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix

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Simon Borchardt