More Sports / Rugby

Tanaka to return to Highlanders for 2015 Super Rugby season

Kyodo

Japan international Fumiaki Tanaka, will be returning to play for the Highlanders for the 2015 season, the club said on its official website on Wednesday.

Tanaka’s signing will see him return to Dunedin for his third consecutive Super Rugby season.

“It’s great to have Fumi back with the Highlanders, he is a quality halfback who plays with outstanding skill and speed. He loves playing for the Highlanders and is a great team man with a big heart,” Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown said.

Tanaka has played 26 games for the Highlanders since debuting in 2013 as the first Japanese player to play Super Rugby in New Zealand.

The 29-year-old became a local favorite playing for Otago in the 2012 and 2013 ITM Cup seasons before returning to Japan this year to play for his Japanese Top League club, Panasonic Wild Knights.

When asked about his return for the 2015 season Tanaka said, “I am very excited to be back playing for the Highlanders, I have big passion for the team and Dunedin. Super rugby is very tough but I enjoy the challenge of playing against the best teams and players.”

Over the past three years Tanaka and his family have made Dunedin home and will return there in December for pre-season training, according to the website.

Tanaka’s signing means there will be at least four Brave Blossoms playing Super Rugby next season with Wild Knights captain Shota Horie and Yamaha Jubilo’s Male Sa’u both returning to Melbourne Rebels and Suntory Sungoliath flanker Hendrik Tui playing with the Brisbane-based Reds.