Jaque Fourie off to Japan

2011-10-24 14:03
Jaque Fourie (File)
Cape Town - Springbok centre Jaque Fourie will play for the Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japan's Top League in its upcoming four-month season which starts this weekend, the club said on Tuesday.

The club said Fourie, 28, who played for South Africa in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, will be a "major force" as the team challenges for the Top League - the highest level in Japan's rugby - and the national championships.

Fourie played for South African clubs the Stormers and Western Province before the World Cup.

"His contract will just cover this season," Panasonic club spokesperson Satoru Awaya said. "Nothing has been decided about the time beyond the season."

Fourie is the latest big name to join the eight-year-old Japanese professional league, which is backed by big corporate money but less demanding because of the relatively short season.

Fourie will join Rugby World Cup team-mates Danie Rossouw, 33, and Fourie du Preez in Japan - the pair have signed for Suntory Sungoliath for the next two years. Former Wallaby George Smith, 31, is also on Suntory's books.

The schedule allows stars to play in the Top League and the southern hemisphere Super League, which is played from February to July.

Japan, whose World Cup winless streak stretched to 18 matches over 20 years at the New Zealand tournament, hope to raise the level of the domestic game before hosting the World Cup in 2019.

At Panasonic, Fourie fills in for New Zealand-born lock Justin Ives, who was forced to leave Japan's World Cup squad in New Zealand after failing to regain full fitness following an injury to his left knee in training.

"It is difficult for Ives to come back during the new season," the club said.

Panasonic won the Top League final for the first time in 2010-2011 but failed for the fourth straight year to win the national championship title.

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