SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the South African players who featured for their respective clubs in the opening round of the Japan Top League this past weekend.
*Note: This season’s revised format – due to earlier Covid-19 infections at multiple clubs – initially splits the 16 teams into two groups of eight for a single round-robin tournament to determine the seedings. They will then be joined by the Top Challenge League’s four leading teams in a 20-team knockout competition to determine the last-ever Top League champion.
– The Shining Arcs opened the final Japan Rugby Top League season with a 41-13 win over Honda Heat. Willie Britz put in a man-of-the-match performance at No 8 for the Shining Arcs, who had former Lions back Sylvian Mahuza at outside centre. Springbok lock Franco Mostert made his debut for Honda Heat, who also had Paul Schoeman at flank. Former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw scored a try, penalty goal and two conversions on his Top League debut for the Shining Arcs.
– Springbok fullback Willie le Roux scored a try to help Toyota Verblitz hold on to claim a 34-33 victory over Toshiba Brave Lupus. Le Roux started at fullback alongside flyhalf Lionel Cronje, who slotted four conversions and two penalties for a haul of 14 points. For Verblitz, former All Blacks captain Kieran Read ran on while Wallabies captain Michael Hooper played off the bench.
– Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx scored a brace of tries as Kubota Spears hammered Munakata Sanix Blues 43-17. Marx started for the Spears alongside a South African lock pair of David Bullbring and Ruan Botha, as well as Japan-capped flank Pieter Labuschagne and wing Gerhard van den Heever. Former Australia flyhalf Bernard Foley scored a try, five conversions and a penalty goal for the Spears.
– Kobe Kobelco Steelers began the defence of their title at Hanazono with a 47-38 win over NEC Green Rockets. Former All Black Ben Smith marked his debut for Kobe with a try, while former Cheetahs back Benhard Janse van Rensburg scored a consolation try in his debut at outside centre for the Green Rockets.
– All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett made an instant impact on his Top League debut by helping Suntory Sungoliath beat Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars 75-7. Barrett scored a try and kicked eight conversions from nine attempts, while Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi also got on the scoresheet as Suntory ran up the highest score of the weekend.
– Springbok flank Kwagga Smith started for Yamaha Jubilo as they claimed a 52-17 victory over the Hino Red Dolphins. Former Vodacom Bulls prop Dayan van der Westhuizen made his debut for the Red Dolphins.
– Springbok centre Jesse Kriel scored a try, only to see the Canon Eagles lose 26-24 to the Red Hurricanes. Lourens Erasmus captained the Red Hurricanes, who also had hooker Franco Marais, flank Wimpie van der Walt and debutant No 8 Tyler Paul in their starting lineup. Also starting for the Red Hurricanes was All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara.
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