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Pieter-Steph du Toit to make League One debut in star-studded clash

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Springboks star Pieter-Steph du Toit has been named to make his Japan Rugby League One debut for Toyota Verblitz this weekend.

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After months without action due to a shoulder injury, Du Toit will start at blindside flanker against Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath at Ajinomoto Stadium on Sunday.

The fixture will act as Du Toit’s first match of competitive rugby since South Africa’s first victory in their series success over the British and Irish Lions in July.

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It will also be Toyota’s first match of the 2022 campaign after their season-opener against the Shizuoka Blue Revs was cancelled as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak in the Blue Revs squad.

Du Toit will be joined by fellow debutant and All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu in an all-star forward pack that also features Brave Blossoms star Kazuki Himeno at openside flanker and former Chiefs lock Michael Allardice in the second row.

There is also a sense of familiarity in the backline, where Japanese internationals Will Tupou, Male Sa’u, Jamie Henry and Kaito Shigeno, as well as journeyman South African pivot Lionel Cronje, have all been named to start, while ex-Chiefs playmaker Tiaan Falcon will feature from the bench.

Together, the Toyota squad will be tasked with clinching their first victory of the year against a Suntory side that ran in seven tries in their 60-46 win over Toshiba Brave Lupus in Tokyo last weekend.

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Star fullback Damian McKenzie played a crucial role in that victory, scoring 25 points from the boot and providing numerous try assists, and he has since been rewarded with a second successive start in the No 15 jersey.

Wallabies loose forward Sean McMahon has also been retained at No 8 for Suntory after he bagged a brace of tries last week, as has barnstorming Australian centre and 2021 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee Samu Kerevi.

Likewise, Brave Blossoms star Yutaka Nagare keeps his place at halfback, while the forward pack remains strengthened by the selection of Japanese international Hendrik Tui and former Reds lock Harry Hockings in the second row.

There is also plenty of firepower on the Suntory bench, which features Brave Blossoms duo Tevita Tatafu and Naoto Saito, as well as former Blues and Highlanders wing Tevita Li.

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Suntory’s clash with Toyota stands as the only Division 1 match to take place on Sunday following the cancellation of matches between the Saitama Wild Knights and the Green Rockets Tokatsu, as well as the Black Rams Tokyo and Shizuoka Blue Revs, due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

However, the Division 2 fixture between the Mie Honda Heat and Kamaishi Seawaves will go ahead as planned Suzuka, with one-test All Blacks first-five Brett Cameron set to make his debut for the visiting Kamaishi side.

Cameron will face the likes of former All Blacks fullback Matt Duffie and ex-Reds, Waratahs, Western Force and Worcester Warriors stalwart Jono Lance, both of whom will start for Honda.

Suntory Sungoliath vs Toyota Verblitz

Suntory Sungoliath: 1. Shintaro Isihara, 2. Kosuke Hirokoshi, 3. Kan Nakano, 4. Hendrik Tui, 5. Harry Hockings, 6. Kenji Shimokawa, 7. Naoki Ozawa, 8. Sean McMahon, 9. Yutaka Nagare, 10. Hikaru Tamura, 11. Shogo Nakano, 12. Ryoto Nakamura, 13. Samu Kerevi, 14. Seiya Ozaki, 15. Damian McKenzie. Reserves: 16. Shunta Nakamura, 17. Yukio Morikawa, 18. Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19. Takayasu Tsuji, 20. Tevita Tatafu, 21. Naoto Saito, 22. Hideto Naguma, 23. Tevita Li.

Toyota Verblitz: 1. Shogo Miura, 2. Yoshikatsu Hikosaka, 3. Yusuke Kizu, 4. Michael Allardice, 5. Patrick Tuipulotu, 6. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 7. Kazuki Himeno, 8. Fetuani Lautaima, 9. Kaito Shigeno, 10. Lionel Cronje, 11. Jamie Henry, 12. Male Sa’u, 13. Charlie Lawrence, 14. Yuki Okada, 15. Will Tupou. Reserves: 16. Ryusei Kato, 17. Gaku Shimizu, 18. Runya Che, 19. Kyo Yoshida, 20. Masato Furukawa, 21. Kenta Fukuda, 22. Tiaan Falcon, 23. Dai Ozawa.

Honda Heat vs Kamaishi Seawaves

Honda Heat: 1. Tatsuhiko Tsurukawa, 2. Lee Seung Hyok, 3. Matthys Basson, 4. Viliami Kaipouli, 5. Tetuhi Roberts, 6. Kasuke Hattori, 7. Ryo Furuta, 8. Paddy Butler, 9. Kenta Yamaji, 10. Oh Gwang Tee, 11. Kanta Omata, 12. Jono Lance, 13. Soki Watanabe, 14. Nobutaka Ubukata, 15. Matt Duffie. Reserves: 16. Shota Nishizawa, 17. Hayato Akahira, 18. Taiki Yoshioka, 19. Masaki Kondo, 20. Ryota Kobayashi, 21. Shogo Nezuka, 22. Park Song Gi, 23. Kanta Watanabe.

Kamaishi Seawaves: 1. Tomoki Nobeta, 2. Kan Yoshina, 3. Shinki Ushikubo, 4. Charlie Matthews, 5. Ben Nee-Nee, 6. Yuta Nakano, 7. Naoki Ono, 8. Yuto Oeda, 9. Atsushi Minami, 10. Brett Cameron, 11. Kodai Ono, 12. Gerdus van der Walt, 13. Katsuto Hatamaka, 14. Taisei Fukikoshi, 15. Yuju Takizawa. Reserves: 16. Daiki Ito, 17. Takuya Takahashi, 18. Morgan Mitchell, 19. Ryunosuke Yamada, 20. Shoji Misaki, 21. Yohei Murakami, 22. Cameron Bailey, 23. Yutaro Murai.

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