An exciting new partnership between Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Toyota Verblitz in Japan has been announced, which will see Toyota Cheetahs forwards coach Os du Randt moving to Japan to work as forwards coach for Toyota Verblitz.
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 and facilitated a first step towards a partnership agreement with Toyota 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. 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 some continuity for players and coaches,” says Calvyn Hamman, Senior Vice President for Sales & Marketing at Toyota.
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 Toyota Verblitz club during their regular season (South Africa’s Currie Cup season) and return to play Super Rugby for the Toyota Cheetahs. Toyota, as title sponsor for the Toyota Cheetahs and owners of the Toyota Verblitz rugby club, have 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 Toyota Cheetahs and Toyota Verblitz as we will learn from one another to, in the spirit of Kaizen (continuous improvement), better quality of players and coaching for both teams.”
The programme’s benefits include: joint contracting of players from outside the Toyota 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 it first significant step forward with Os du Randt moving to Toyota Verblitz as forwards and scrum coach. Os du Randt will be travelling to Japan in early June to join Toyota Verblitz, on a two-year contract whilst acting as an ambassador for the Toyota Cheetahs. This move will not only afford Verblitz the opportunity to work with one of the best forward and scrum coaches in the world but will also give the Toyota 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 Toyota Cheetahs/Verblitz relationship and will significantly strengthen the bond between the two entities.
Currently, 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 Toyota Cheetahs during the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup season. Coaches from the Toyota Cheetahs and Verblitz will also be travelling between Japan and South Africa to assist with various areas of 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 (2012 – 2015). Toyota 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. This unique relationship we believe will change the future of player movement between South Africa and Japan,” says Harold Verster, Managing Director of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. “Toyota is much more than just our headline sponsor. Toyota is our partner and together we hope to better rugby in the Free Sate and in Japan.”