Michael Little (right) of the Sunwolves receives the ball from his teammate Pieter Lappies Labuschagne (centre) during the Round 8 Super Rugby match between Japan's Sunwolves and Australia's Waratahs at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in April 2018. Photo: EPA/Franck Robichon

SHIZUOKA – Former Bulls/Cheetahs flanker ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne is one of two SA-born players in Japan's starting line-up to play against Ireland in their RWC clash on Saturday in Shizuoka.

The other player is winger Kotaro Matsushima who was born in Pretoria but spent most of childhood in his mother's native country Japan. His father is Zimbabwean. He returned to SA much later and played a few matches for the Sharks Under-19 team.

Another former Bulls flanker Wimpie van der Walt is on the bench and that makes three SA-born players in the matchday squad. 

Japan coach Jamie Joseph has opted to rest regular captain and flanker Michael Leitch who will play off the bench. Labuschagne will lead the side and becomes the third foreign-born player to captain Japan in a World Cup match following Andrew McCormick (NZL) and Michael Leitch (NZL).

Interestingly, Labuschagne becomes the fourth SA-born player to captain a country other than South Africa at the Rugby World Cup. The other three are Kevin Dalzell (USA), Quintin Geldenhuys (Italy) and Dion O’Cuinneagain (Ireland).

Japan's team: 

15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 William Tupou, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (captain), 6 Kazuki Himeno, 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki 

Substitutes: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19  , 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Lomano Lava Lemeki 

African News Agency (ANA)