30-year-old duo JJ Engelbrecht and Rudy Paige will both play for the Japanese-based franchise during the 2020 season after signing from French club Clermont, where they had brief contracts as cover players during the World Cup.
Engelbrecht, a 12-test midfielder, has already spent a substantial amount of time in Super Rugby after having already played for the Bulls and, most recently, the Stormers.
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Halfback Paige, who has played in 13 tests for South Africa, played nearly half a century of matches in Super Rugby with the Bulls between 2013 and 2017, and had been playing in the Currie Cup and PRO14 with the Cheetahs prior to moving to Clermont.
The pair become the 18th and 19th foreign stars to join the Sunwolves as they prepare for their last season in Super Rugby, joining the likes of England and British and Irish Lions international Ben Te’o and ex-Wallaby Jake Schatz at the club.
Only six of the side’s 25 players signed on for next year are from Japan, highlighting the difficulty the Sunwolves have encountered in trying to contract homegrown talent in the wake of the Top League’s decision to move its 2020 competition into the same window as Super Rugby.
Star Japan loose forward Amanaki Mafi has avoided a conviction for attacking a former teammate.https://t.co/fMAoWYCPEo
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 17, 2019
The calendar shift came as a result of Japan hosting the 2019 World Cup, which was held between September and November, when the Top League would normally be held.
It was announced earlier this year that the Sunwolves would be culled from the competition from 2021 as Super Rugby reverts back from a conference-based regular season to round-robin system with just 14 teams.
The Japan Rugby Football Union were unable to “financially underwrite” the team after 2020, Super Rugby’s governing body SANZAAR said in March.
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