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Suntory, Toshiba reach All-Japan Championship semifinals

Kyodo

Two of Australia’s Super Rugby sides will have to wait a little longer for their Japan imports after Suntory Sungoliath advanced to the semifinals of the All-Japan Championship on Sunday.

Hendrik Tui, who is set to play for the Reds, and Kotaro Matsushima, who will join the Waratahs, both featured in Sungoliath’s 22-10 win over Kobe Kobelco Steelers, with Tui scoring one of Suntory’s three tries, and Matsushima putting in a few of his trademark breaks.

Having said, “It was a total team effort, we played as a unit and I don’t want to single anyone out,” Suntory coach Naoya Okubo then talked a little about the Australia-bound pair.

“Hendrik put in a really good performance. I think he is really motivated by playing in Super Rugby and I think everyone on the team picked up on that,” Okubo said. “It’s going to be fun to see what Matsushima can do in Super Rugby. He’s been like a little boy looking up to his older brothers, but he is finding his feet and feeling confident enough to speak up now.”

Suntory will play Top League champions Panasonic Wild Knights next week while Toshiba Brave Lupus will take on Yamaha Jubilo after they ended Teikyo University’s hopes of any more glory with a 38-24 win in front of 14,196 in the second game of the doubleheader at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

Toshiba’s win over the plucky Teikyo students — who toppled Top League side NEC Green Rockets in the opening round — means the Waratahs and Reds are not the only Super Rugby teams to be awaiting a Japan player, as Toshiba’s Michael Leitch will also have to wait at least another week before he packs his bags to join the Chiefs.

The early game featured two sides looking to resurrect their seasons, with Suntory having failed to make the Top League playoffs for the first time, and Kobe topping the standings at the end of the regular season only to fall to Yamaha in the playoffs in disappointing fashion.

An early try by Suntory scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, converted by Tusi Pisi, was soon canceled out by a five-pointer from Matt Vant Leven as the two sides matched one another in every department.

Ryohei Yamanaka gave Kobe the lead in the 25th minute, when he went over following a clever chip ahead by Takashi Sato, but it was all level at the break after Pisi banged over a penalty four minutes before halftime.

The second half was a different affair, though, with Tui’s try four minutes after play resumed forcing the Steelers to change their game plan slightly.

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