British and Irish Lions Japan

Japan players celebrate after beating Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images.

British & Irish Lions Tour: SA-born duo in line for Japan debuts vs Lions

Japanese coach Jaime Joseph has named his 36-man squad to take on both the British & Irish Lions as well as Ireland, which includes two South African-born potential debutants.

British and Irish Lions Japan

Japan players celebrate after beating Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images.

Japan coach Jaime Joseph has named his 36-man squad to take on both the British & Irish Lions as well as Ireland, which includes two South African-born potential debutants.

Two South African-born players receive maiden Japanese call-ups ahead of British & Irish Lions Test

The two Tests in Europe, are likely to provide the perfect platform and opportunity for the duo of Shane Gates and Gerhard van den Heever to make their respective test debuts for their adopted nation, Japan. The match against the British & Irish Lions is scheduled for the 26 June in Edinburgh, while the fixture against Ireland will take place in the capital city of Dublin on 3 July

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These fixtures will mark the first time the Red Blossoms take to the field since their World Cup quarter-final loss to the Springboks in 2019. Joseph has since lamented the lack of preparation time the Japanese ahead of these two games.

Japan coach acknowledges limited preparation time British & Irish Lions match

“Both Test matches are huge – if you thought about Japan embarking on a mission to play the British Lions and Ireland a couple of years ago, it would be untenable,” he told local reporters.

“It’s new landscape for us as a team, and we’ll just keep things very simple but at an intensity that we think we’re going to get overseas, which is very high, very physical and very fast.”

 Fortunately for Joseph, he still has a huge chunk of his world cup squad available to him, including his trusted captain Michael Leitch. He will be part and parcel of a 19-man Japanese contingent that will be trying to smoothen the quick turnover process for Joseph’s side and try to ease his concerns in that regard.

“We need players that are experienced in playing Test matches,” said Joseph.

“Where we felt that those players were in good form or had the necessary experience with minimal time to prepare, we selected those guys.”

Who is Gates?

Gates is a Gqeberha-born flyhalf, who starred for local school Muir College. The 28-year-old also represented the Eastern Province Kings as well as Southern Kings between 2011-2016. He then went on to sign for the NTT Communications Shining Arcs as well as the previous Japanese Super Rugby franchise.

Who is Van den Heever?

Van den Heever had a storming start to his professional rugby career, making his Blue Bulls debut at just aged 20. He would then go on to make 72 appearances for the union, before being enticed to join the Stormers between 2012-2013. After three years at Irish giants Munster, the 32-year-old would arrive in Japan signing with Yamaha Jubilo before also playing for the Sunwolves and Kubota Spears.