Van den Heever, Gates set to face Lions

Backline players Gerhard van den Heever and Shane Gates have been included in Japan’s 36-man squad for their match against the British & Irish Lions.

Van den Heever and Gates have been plying their trade in Japan since 2016, meaning the pair qualify to play for Japan via World Rugby’s three-year residency rule.

Gates previously played for the EP-Southern Kings, while Van den Heever turned out for the Vodacom Bulls, Stormers, WP and Munster before heading to Japan.

Like so many other South Africans – capped and uncapped – playing in Japan, both these players have been in excellent form in the Top League so far this season.

Van den Heever played for the Kubota Spears, who reached the semi-finals of this year’s competition, while Gates was part of the Shining Arcs team that was knocked out in the first round of playoffs.

Their inclusion brings the total of South African-born players in the squad to four, with Japan-capped Wimpie van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne also making the cut.

Japan will be facing the Sunwolves on 12 June before flying to Scotland to play the British & Irish Lions on 26 June, a match that is expected to host around 16,500 spectators.