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Brave Blossoms' Sa'u picks Auckland over Sunwolves

by Rich Freeman

Kyodo

Japan’s new Super Rugby side received yet another snub Monday with the news Male Sa’u has signed a one-year deal with the Auckland-based Blues.

The 28-year-old Yamaha Jubilo center is the fifth member of Japan’s Rugby World Cup squad to opt to play for an overseas club in 2016 rather than sign with the Sunwolves.

Sa’u’s Yamaha teammate Ayumu Goromaru will play for the Queensland Reds along with Suntory Sungoliath No. 8 Hendrik Tui. Toshiba Brave Lupus flanker and Japan captain Michael Leitch is rejoining the Chiefs, while Panasonic Wild Knights scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka is returning to the Highlanders.

“We are thrilled to have Male join us. He is a strong runner to the line and is now an experienced player at international level,” Blues coach Tana Umaga said on the team’s website.

“Male showed at the World Cup that he is a strong and combative player. He can also play in a number of positions in the backline which is invaluable.”

Sa’u, an age-group New Zealand representative, moved to Japan in 2008 and has played 26 tests for the Brave Blossoms. He spent the 2014 Super Rugby season in Melbourne alongside Panasonic and Japan hooker Shota Horie playing for the Rebels.

“I have always admired the way the Blues have played and now also the chance to play under Tana and the other Blues coaching staff which I believe will help me with my rugby going forward,” said Sa’u, who was brought up in Auckland.

“I left Counties Manukau before Tana arrived, but I’ve spoken to some of the guys who have been under him, and they said Tana helped them a lot with their rugby development.

“I am going to give it 100 percent, just hard work. I like the attacking style of the Blues. There will be heaps of new faces there but they can give you that excitement in playing a new style of rugby.”

Sa’u’s decision highlights the ongoing problems the Sunwolves have had putting together a competitive playing squad.

Lack of finances, and the fact the team still hasn’t named a head coach, despite the season starting on Feb. 27, are the two main reasons so many players have been reluctant to join the side.

On Sunday, reports in Japan suggested former Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett had been lined up to lead the new team but his current employers, Tasman Rugby Union, said they have heard nothing and expect the former All Blacks hooker to honor the two-year deal he signed in August.

While the Sunwolves have said they have a squad of 32 players, there are serious questions as to how competitive the team will be.

Kyodo News has learned just four players from two-time defending Top League champion Panasonic have signed to play for the fledgling team, with Suntory providing a similar number.

Blitzboks defend title

AP

Rosko Speckman and Seabelo Senatla scored two tries apiece as South Africa beat Argentina 29-14 to win the Cape Town Sevens and join Fiji at the top of the sevens rugby world series standings.

While the Blitzboks’ physicality had been a major feature of their play through the weekend, it was the speed of Speckman and Senatla that proved the difference in the final, as the hosts ran in five tries to Argentina’s two.

The result meant that South Africa won its own world series event for the third year running, and the 22 points it earned put them level with Fiji on 35 after two rounds.

France pipped Kenya to third place, winning the playoff 28-26, having knocked out world series champion Fiji in the quarterfinals.

Fiji, which won the opening leg of the world series in Dubai last weekend, went on to win the Plate on Sunday as it beat the USA 29-19 in the final.

South Africa’s passage into the quarterfinals was in doubt after it was shocked by Kenya on Saturday afternoon, but it was faultless thereafter.

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