OITA – Though still feeling the pain of a quarterfinal exit from the Rugby World Cup on Saturday, Australian star Samu Kerevi said he is excited about starting the next phase of his career in Japan’s Top League.
Following Australia’s 40-16 loss to England in Oita, the 26-year-old Kerevi is looking ahead to joining 2018-2019 Top League runners-up Suntory Sungoliath, with whom he will play alongside former Wallaby stalwart Matt Giteau.
While Suntory is believed to have tabled a far more generous contract offer than his previous club, Australian Super Rugby side the Queensland Reds, Kerevi said being closer to his two Japan-based brothers is worth much more than cash in the bank.
And the hospitality he has received in Japan throughout the World Cup has made the Fijian-born flyer even more comfortable about the move, he said.
“The people here have just reinforced that,” said Kerevi, who captained the Reds this past season.
“(The Wallabies) have been really grateful for the way (the Japanese people) treated us, not just our team but all teams. I’m really excited to be joining Suntory.”
Kerevi’s older brother Josh plays for the Akita Northern Bullets in Japan’s lower-tier Top East League, while younger brother Jone is now playing rugby while studying at Tenri University in Nara Prefecture.
Raised by his grandparents in Brisbane after moving to Australia at age 4, Kerevi said he had limited contact with his brothers growing up and was looking forward to spending time with them.
“It was more of a decision to be with my brothers, be with family who I haven’t been with for 20 years now,” Kerevi said.
“I’m just happy to be here with them, and I’m just going to focus on that and positive things that come out of it.”
The Wallaby center will be taking cues on local culture from older brother Josh, whom he said is deeply immersed in Japanese life.
“(He is) basically a native of this country and it still trips me out that he can speak (Japanese) fluently,” Kerevi said.
Though he has no reservations about coming to Japan, it means he will be ineligible to play for the Wallabies under current Australian Rugby Union rules.