Hong Kong will stage its first ever Vodacom Super Rugby match on 19 May at Mong Kok Stadium when Japan’s Hito-Com Sunwolves host the DHL Stormers.
The DHL Stormers’ Hong Kong debut will mark the second visit of a South African Vodacom Super Rugby franchise in the city in 2018, after Cell C Sharks faced off against Racing 92 in pre-season match.
The DHL Stormers draw one of the strongest annual attendances in Vodacom Super Rugby at DHL Newlands in Cape Town, and now South Africans in Hong Kong will have their opportunity to support a home side at the 6,000-seat Mong Kok Stadium.
DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck said that his team is looking forward to the experience of playing in front of a Hong Kong crowd.
“This is another first for the DHL Stormers and something that all of the players and management are really looking forward to. Our matches against the Sunwolves in Singapore have been tough encounters, so we know that we are in for a real test once again,” he said.
Western Province Rugby Group CEO, Paul Zacks, said that it is particularly exciting to take the DHL Stormers brand to yet another new territory.
“In the last two seasons we have taken the DHL Stormers to both Singapore and Argentina for the first time, so we are really looking forward to connecting with our supporters in Hong Kong in 2018.
“The Faithful can be found all over the world and I am sure we will get great support in Hong Kong as well,” he said.
Western Province Rugby Football Union President, Thelo Wakefield, said that it is great to see the DHL Stormers reaching yet another new frontier.
“We have seen how much the DHL Stormers are loved all over the world in recent years, so we are looking forward to standing together with the Faithful in Hong Kong,” said Mr Wakefield.
It will be a meeting of familiar rivals, after the two teams were grouped in last season’s Africa 1 conference, with the DHL Stormers finishing top of the conference log. They swept the series beating Sunwolves 44-31 in Tokyo in week Five and inflicting a heavier loss, 52-15, on the visitors at DHL Newlands in week 16.
Although the Sunwolves will be on debut in the city, the side features some familiar faces for local fans – including over 10,000 Japanese residents in the city, with test captain and flanker Michael Leitch, scrumhalf Fumi Tanaka, hooker Shota Horie, backs Yu Tamura, Kenki Fukuoka, Akihito Yamada, Harumichi Tatekawa and Sevens star Lomano Lemeki all having represented Japan here previously.
The Sunwolves enter the season under a new coach who is also familiar to local audiences in former All Black and Japan international Jamie Joseph, who coached the Highlanders in the first ever appearance of a Vodacom Super Rugby squad in Hong Kong against French Top 14 threats Racing 92 in 2016, the year after taking the Highlanders to the Vodacom Super Rugby championship.