Jake White’s Blue Bulls have created a new role in their coaching team, which the franchise described as “another first in South African Rugby”. The Bulls have introduced Hitoshi Ipponsugi as their Head of Athletic Performance.

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Ipponsugi, affectionately known as Ippon by his peers, has fast become a renowned and well-respected figure in the Japanese Rugby industry over the last 10 years.

He studied sports coaching and exercise science at the University of Canberra. While in the Australian capital he interned in the strength and conditioning department for the Brumbies where he first encountered and engaged with, now Director of Rugby at the Blue Bulls, Jake White.

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In 2013 he move back to Japan, the country of his birth, where he accepted a role at Kobota Spears as the athletic performance coach. A year-and-half later, he moved to the Mitsubishi Dynaboars filling the role of head of strength and conditioning, before becoming the head of physical performance at Toyota Verblitz in 2017.

While at Verblitz he once again partnered and worked closely with White, who was then the head coach. The pair synergised brilliantly and formed an amazing chemistry to get the best out of their players.

White re-emphasized his belief in the new Bulls coach: “Ippon-san is a visionary and the top of his field in my opinion, and we are honoured to have him join our system. As our head of athletic performance he will lead our esteemed team of conditioners and trainers, and be responsible for the overall conditioning and performance of our players. The most significant part of his role will be to ensure that the conditioning of the players seamlessly compliments the style of rugby we want to play at any given time.”

Ipponsugi and his family spent the festive season in Pretoria, settling into their new home. He officially started on 1 January 2021.

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