The Japanese Top League will kick off this weekend with a number of Springboks and ex-Super Rugby players involved in the first round of action.
The match between the Panasonic Wild Knights and Kubota Spears is bound to be a highlight of the round, with a number of big-name players involved. Damian de Allende will be starting at inside centre for the Wild Knights, who also have All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock in their starting lineup, with Wallabies flank David Pocock on the bench. The Spears, meanwhile, will have Duane Vermeulen at eighthman in a pack which also features Lappies Labuschagne and Ruan Botha. In the backline, Gerhard van den Heever will start at fullback, while Ryan Crotty will play at No 12.
Earlier on Sunday, Malcolm Marx will be making his Top League debut as he starts for the Shining Arcs in their fixture against the Shining Dolphins. The Shining Arcs will also have Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano at inside centre.
The Sunday afternoon fixture between Toyota Verblitz and Yamaha Jubilo will see Bok fullback Willie Le Roux start for Verblitz alongside former Sharks and Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje. The Verblitz lineup will also feature former All Blacks captain Kieran Read and former Cheetahs lock Carl Wegner. The Jubilo side has a star of its own with flank Kwagga Smith going into his second season at the club, starting in the No 7 jersey.
At the same time, the Canon Eagles will be taking on Kobe Steel. Springbok centre Jesse Kriel will be making his first appearance for the Eagles after joining from the Vodacom Bulls. The Eagles will also have two former Stormers players in Kobus van Dyk and SP Marais in their lineup, while Rynier Bernardo will start at lock. The Steel have a few star players in their starting XV, including All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick and former All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter.
Finally, Springbok fans can keep their eye on the match between Honda Heat and the Black Rams. Former Bulls lock RG Snyman will starting in the No 5 jersey for the Heat, in a pack which features another former Bulls player in flank Paul Schoeman.
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