Director of rugby Jake White has continued his evolution of the Bulls with the creation of a new position at the franchise.
The role is a first in South African rugby as Japanese fitness ace Hitoshi Ipponsugi becomes the franchise's new Head of Athletic Performance.
Ipponsugi, affectionately known as "Ippon" by his peers, has fast become a renown and respected figure in the Japanese Rugby industry over the past decade.
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 ACT Brumbies where he first encountered and engaged with White.
In 2013, he moved back to his country of birth where he accepted a role at Kubota 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 was reunited and worked closely with White, who was then head coach. The pair synergised brilliantly and formed an amazing chemistry to get the best out of their players.
White welcomed Ipponsugi's arrival in Pretoria: "Ippon is a visionary and 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 his new role on 1 January 2021.
- Compiled by Sport24 staff