Cheetahs, Japanese club join forces

2015-05-27 06:00
TAKING HANDS: From the left are Calvyn Hamman, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Toyota South Africa, Os du Randt, Toyota Verblitz coach, and Lindsey Mould, president of the Free State Rugby Union.

TAKING HANDS: From the left are Calvyn Hamman, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Toyota South Africa, Os du Randt, Toyota Verblitz coach, and Lindsey Mould, president of the Free State Rugby Union.

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AN EXCITING new partnership between the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and the Toyota Verblitz – which will see the Cheetahs forwards coach moving to Japan as forwards coach of Verblitz – was announced on Saturday (23/05).

Following the exodus of South African players to Japan in recent years, Toyota South Africa identified an opportunity to contribute to the rugby society in both South Africa and Japan to foster talent.

This is why it facilitated a first step towards a partnership agreement with the Cheetahs and the Toyota-owned Verblitz Rugby Club, based in Japan.

“For Toyota South Africa, sponsorships is not just about giving money and walking away. We like to get actively involved in our sponsorship properties and assist where we can,” said Calvyn Hamman, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Toyota.

“When the Free State Union was faced with numerous players showing intent to move to Japan to further their playing careers, we identified an opportunity with Toyota Verblitz to offer continuity for players and ­coaches.”

This opportunity lead to the establishment of an exchange programme whereby selected players and coaches could be utilised by both entities, with players given the opportunity to play in Japan for the Verblitz club during South Africa’s Currie Cup season and return to play Super Rugby for the Cheetahs.

Toyota, as title sponsor for the Cheetahs and owners of the Verblitz Rugby Club, has therefore opened a unique channel for selected players to play Super Rugby and Japanese club rugby.

“In line with Toyota’s vision statement, this gives us an opportunity to contribute to society through sport.

“We believe this partnership will yield positive results for both the Cheetahs and the Verblitz as we will learn from one another to, in the spirit of kaizen (continuous improvement), better the quality of players and coaching.”

The programme’s benefits include: joint contracting of players from outside the Cheetahs squad, open channels of communication between the two entities to assist with player recruitment and development, and the prospect of contracts in Japan for players who traditionally would not be considered. Furthermore, an exchange programme for coaches, as well as offering the opportunities for the development of Japanese players in South Africa.

This programme has now made its first significant step forward with Os du Randt moving to the Verblitz as forwards and scrum coach. He will be travelling to Japan in early June to join his new club on a two-year contract whilst acting as an ambassador for the Cheetahs.

This move will not only afford the Verblitz the opportunity to work with one of the best forward and scrum coaches in the world, but it will also give the Cheetahs the advantage of having an ambassador in Japan that can assist with contracting and the exchange of players between the two teams.

This will be the first step in the relationship between the Cheetahs and the Verblitz and will significantly strengthen the bond between the two entities.

The two parties have started some discussions regarding the recruitment of players, inside and outside of the Cheetahs squad, to join the programme and have extended an invitation to a few Japanese players to join the Cheetahs during the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup season.

Coaches of the Cheetahs and the Verblitz will also be travelling between Japan and South Africa to assist with coaching, structures and skills development.

With Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019, rugby is playing an increasingly important role for Toyota, who is also the sponsor of the Japanese national team from 2012 to 2015.

The Verblitz – a company-owned team with players who are full-time employees of Toyota – is a Japanese Rugby Union team participating in the Japanese Top League and this collaboration with another Toyota-funded team will contribute to strengthening the team’s performance and uplift the standard of Japanese rugby.

“Without a sponsor like Toyota, this Japan exchange programme would only be a dream. Toyota has made this dream a reality for the Cheetahs,” said Harold Verster, managing director of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs.

“This unique relationship we believe will change the future of player movement between South Africa and Japan.

“Toyota is much more than just our headline sponsor. Toyota is our partner and together we hope to better rugby in the Free State and in Japan.”

) The Cheetahs travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers in a Super Rugby match on Saturday (30/05) at 17:05

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