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SEE | Here's why Toyota and other automakers have a rugby team

2019-10-30 04:30

Lance Branquinho

Japanese rugby team

Image: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

The first ever Rugby World Cup in Japan, has been a massive success Despite having had to endure a near natural disaster, in typhoon Hagibis, the Japanese have proven excellent Rugby World Cup hosts. They have been equal parts Japanese efficiency and overenthusiastic rugby fans.

As Rugby World Cup fever grips our nation in anticipation of a Springbok final against England, we thought it would be education to evaluate the vital role that car companies have played in Japanese rugby.

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If you are a car enthusiast, Japan remains the most important geography outside of Germany.

The world’s most valuable car company is Japanese (Toyota) and many legendary vehicles, past and present, are Japanese. The automotive industry is an anchor of Japan’s economy, employing 6-million people and accounting for a significant percentage of GDP.

In the overlap between Japanese cultural and corporate life, the company is everything. Many Japanese spend their entire working lives with one company and as such, Japanese companies reward this loyalty with excellent benefits.

Sport and leisure activities are encouraged as part of the holistic Japanese lifestyle and if you are a car and rugby fan, you might notice that Japanese brands are big into their rugby.

In the current Top League, which is the first tier of Japanese domestic rugby, there are no less than five of the fourteen teams which are automotive related. These teams enjoy immense financial backing from their corporate naming sponsors and even have a few Springboks contracted to play. 

The car company teams

You have the Honda Heat, founded as Honda’s corporate rugby team way back in 1960. Current Springbok bomb squad lock, RG Snyman, plays for them. One of Japan’s oldest teams, is the Toyota Verblitz, founded in 1941 and owned by the world’s dominant car company by value, Toyota.

Willie le Roux has been a star player for the Toyota Verblitz in Japanese domestic rugby.Although Yamaha recently suspended all automotive research and support engineering activity, the brand’s proud history and extensive motorcycle product portfolio certainly qualify it as an entity of interest to rugby fans who are petrolheads.

Japanese rugby team

                                                           Image: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

The Yahama Jubilo tier one rugby team features a single South African World Cup squad player, openside flanker, Kwagga Smith.

We also have the simply magnificently named, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara DynaBoars, which unfortunately don’t have a single South African player in their current squad. Founded in 1950, the Hino Red Dolphins are a rugby playing corporate entity of Toyota’s truck business, but they also currently lack a South African player in their team. 

Why Rugby?

You might be wondering why corporate Japan, and its car companies, pour resources into funding their own professional rugby teams.

The answer is simple: honour.

Japanese corporate culture values honesty and teamwork. Rugby as a sport, especially as it is practiced in Japan, extols both these values.

Japanese rugby team

                                                              Image: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Rugby also retains its own code of conduct for players, and enforcement is strict, unlike soccer, where dramatic behaviour is tolerated, and match officials regularly abused.

The blend between amateur domestic players, many who work for the companies which own Japanese rugby teams, and overseas professionals, also highlight the values of diversity and global cooperation. Both of which are important for Japanese car companies, in their global profile and product reach. 


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