Toyota Verblitz announced Wednesday that prop Yosuke Takahashi and fullback Yoshizumi Takeda had joined the Cheetahs Super Rugby franchise on short-term contracts.
The pair are in South Africa as a result of Toyota’s sponsorship of the Cheetahs and a tie-up between the two clubs.
“They have huge potential for the future, and getting the feel of a top-level competition first hand is a priceless experience in that developmental process while being a huge asset for our team as well,” Verblitz said in a press release.
Takahashi, who played for Japan at under-20 and -19 level while at Daito Bunka University, spent the last season being coached by two-time Rugby World Cup winner and former Cheetahs forwards coach Os du Randt, who moved to Aichi Prefecture on a two-year deal in 2015.
“I appreciate the chance I have been offered in joining the Cheetahs and taking on this challenge,” Takahashi said.
“I’ll reflect on myself in South Africa and will strive stubbornly and aggressively to train myself again from scratch, to rejoin Verblitz having made big progress.”
Takeda, who was a standout at Teikyo University, said: “I’m really glad I have been given the chance to have a crack overseas by joining a team in a top league in the Cheetahs.
“It might be a short period of three months, but I’ll always remember the word ‘challenge’ and try to absorb as many things to show how much development I have made when I return to Verblitz.”
The Cheetahs beat Japan’s Super Rugby side the Sunwolves 32-31 in Round 3 of this year’s competition and head coach Franco Smith said there is a possibility Takahashi and Takeda, who both graduated from university in 2014, could extend their stay in Bloemfontein.
“It is part of our agreement with Toyota Verblitz and we have had some of our coaches and players head to Japan, so this is our opportunity to contribute to their development,” Smith said.
“Both players will join us and train with the team and if they are good enough they will get a chance. But it is very early and they are young players, so the expectation shouldn’t be that they will play Super Rugby immediately. If they do put up their hands and show their talent, then who knows?”