Cape Town - South African-born utility forward Wimpie van der Walt has been named in Japan’s match-day squad for Saturday’s Test against Australia in Yokohama (07:40 SA time).
Van der Walt, a former Southern Kings player who currently plays for the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, is one of five uncapped players selected by coach Jamie Joseph for the Test at the Yokohama International Stadium, where the 2019 World Cup final will be hosted.
The other debutants are lock Kazuki Himeno, prop Asaeli Ali Valu, loose forward Fetuani Lautaimi, centre Sione Teaupa.
New Zealan-born flank Michael Leitch is Japan captain.
Himeno partners Uwe Helu in the engine room, with Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie and Takuma Asahara in the front row, while Leitch makes up an athletic back row alongside No 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Shunsuke Nunomaki.
In the backline, Fumiaki Tanaka and Rikiya Matsuda form an exciting halfback partnership with Harumichi Tatekawa and Timothy Lafaele in midfield, Ryuji Noguchi and Lomano Lava Lemeki on the wings and Kotaro Matsushima at fullback.
“We have the return of some experienced players that weren’t available for the World XV match, such as Horie, Asahara, Tatekawa and Lafaele,” Joseph said.
“Fumi (Tanaka) also returns after we lost him in the first five minutes last week. Having those experienced guys against a very experienced Wallabies team is crucial.”
Atsushi Sakata, Koki Yamamoto, Yutaka Nagare and Yu Tamura make up the rest of the bench as Japan look to beat Australia for the first time in what will be the fifth game between the two countries.
“When we get the ball we need to create momentum and get behind them,” said Joseph. “When we do that we have the skill and speed to score against very good sides.”
15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Ryuji Noguchi, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Substitutes: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Fetuani Lautaimi, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Sione Teaupa
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Curtis Rona