While the Japan Super Rugby franchise is struggling to get any players to commit to it, the Top League sides are having no such problems.
On Wednesday, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes confirmed that Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth and Wallaby fullback Israel Folau had both inked deals to play for the Osaka-based team, which last week announced it had acquired the services of South African flyhalf Handre Pollard.
Etzebeth has won 33 caps for the Springboks and will be a key figure in their Rugby World Cup squad, which could feature up to a dozen or so players aligned to Japanese clubs.
Former Australian Rules Football and National Rugby League star Folau has 29 caps for the Wallabies. The 26-year-old announced the same day he had signed a three-year deal to stay with the Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union but the contract is a flexible one that allows him to play in Japan outside of the Super Rugby and international test season.
Compatriot and Waratahs teammate Bernard Foley recently signed a similar deal allowing him to play for Ricoh Black Rams in 2015-16.
Last week, the South African pair of Pierre Spies and Damian de Allende also signed up for a season in Osaka having agreed to terms with Kintetsu Liners.
While corporate sides are signing world-class players on an almost daily basis, SANZAR — the body that runs rugby in the Southern Hemisphere — has expressed concern about Japan’s new Super Rugby side.
The new franchise was supposed to have announced its squad by June 30, but the deadline passed without a single player having committed to the team.
“Without a doubt it’s a serious issue which we need to monitor very closely,” SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters told The Australian newspaper.
“It’s a steep learning curve for the management of the new entity to understand how the contracting process works.
“They have their own particular local nuances. They are working through those issues. They have a different contracting model that we don’t have here.”