Japan’s new Super Rugby team took another knock Thursday with the news that Hendrik Tui had opted to re-sign with the Queensland Rugby Union and play for the Reds next season.
The 27-year-old, who scored a try earlier in the day for Japan in the Brave Blossoms’ 27-22 defeat to Fiji, is the second high profile player to snub Japan’s new Super Rugby franchise.
Last month, Japan captain Michael Leitch opted to re-sign with the Chiefs rather than suit up for the new Tokyo-based franchise, which has been beset with problems.
The Japan team, which so far has no name, has yet to publicly announce a single member of its playing roster for the 2016 Super Rugby season, which starts in March.
Kyodo News has learned from a source that “more than one player” has signed, but the original deadline for the whole squad to be registered was the end of June.
A lack of money and reluctance from the company sides to release players seems to be the main stumbling block.
Tui, who will still play for Suntory Sungoliath in the Top League, said he was excited to return to the Reds in 2016.
“This season was a good opportunity to build experience for me and I know now heading into my second season with the Reds what’s going on and what’s expected of me,” he said on the Reds’ web site.
“I’m excited because I know I can play at that level and challenge myself even more.”
Reds head coach Richard Graham was full of praise for the New Zealand-born Tui, who has now won 28 caps for his adopted country.
“After a disjointed season through injury it is fantastic to have Hendrik back in the program for 2016. He is a quality guy and his contribution in the final two games off the bench was telling,” he said.
“Following a Rugby World Cup and another domestic season, we’re confident he’ll play a big part with the Reds. He made it very clear he wanted to return to Ballymore and be involved with the squad moving forward. With the expansion of Super Rugby and other options available, it says a lot about his character.”