Keegan Daniel speaks about his debut for the Kubota Spears and his initial impressions of Japan.
Daniel, who spent nine successful years with the Sharks, made the move to Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season.
A breakaway flanker blessed with an impressive turn of speed, his game seems a perfect match for rugby in Japan, where pace wins favour over physicality.
You made your debut last weekend, coming off the bench in a 24-3 loss. How did it go?
As a team we were disappointed with the result since we’d had a good week at training. Personally, it was good to get my first game under the belt and to get a feel for what the pace of the game is like. I played 25 minutes which is a good benchmark to start off with.
Are you expecting a starting role in the coming weeks?
Any player wants to be in the starting lineup but I missed the whole of pre-season and I’m still adjusting to the systems they have in place and learning all the patterns.
It was your first taste of action in Japan. What did you make of the pace and physicality of the game?
The players definitely play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion, but may lack in execution at times. The pace can be quick, depending on the weather. The ball feels like a bar of soap a lot of the times. There is a drop in physicality from Super Rugby level, something I’ll have to get used to.
What are the team’s expectations for the season ahead?
I missed a lot of the pre-season and goal-setting, but we are aiming for a top six finish.
You’ve been in Japan since the conclusion of the Super Rugby season. How are you adapting to your new life?
The first few days were very daunting. Not being able to communicate all that well, even though the locals try their best at English. The club has been really good at helping us settle in and all the foreign players and their wives live in the same area, which makes it a bit easier.
How do the facilities compare to those in South Africa?
The facilities are actually really good here, I was pleasantly surprised upon my arrival. The grounds are literally inside the Kubota factory premises which took some getting used to.
How are the Japanese lessons coming along?
[Laughs] I can basically count, say hello, thank you and sorry. Our lessons actually start next week Thursday so once they begin I think there will be a vast improvement