June 3 - 1968 Japan beat NZ Juniors

The 1968 Japanese team was the first to represent the Japanese RFU in New Zealand and they proved very popular. The highlight of their 10 match tour was their 23 – 19 defeat of the New Zealand Juniors.

The win over the Juniors was a very good result for Japan, for this was a good Juniors side. Six of the backs became All Blacks and the seventh (Dennis Panther) an All Black reserve. The pack included three future All Blacks and a fourth (Peter Whiting) came on as a replacement.

Demi Sakata - scored four tries



This was the first side to represent the Japan Rugby Football Union in New Zealand; at Club level Yawata Club had played three matches in New Zealand in 1962, and Doshisha University eight matches here in 1966. Actually the visit was in return for the tours by the Under-23 New Zealand team in 1958, and New Zealand Universities early in 1967, and so successful was the venture that it could well be repeated in the near future.

Twenty-three players made up the side, eleven backs and twelve forwards, and the itinerary comprised ten fixtures, six of these being recognised as of first-class status; the four minor matches were those against individual and combined University XV’s other than the Universities’ New Zealand selections. The first-class matches resulted in Japan winning three, New Zealand Universities taking the honours in the two representative games played, whereas the principal match of the tour, that versus New Zealand Juniors, was justly won by the visiting team. With only two “six-footers” and three others in the side five feet, ten inches, or over, it was expected that very little line-out ball would be won, but expert jumping by the Japanese forwards resulted in much possession being gained, whilst most intelligent use was made of the shortened version of the line-out. The same qualms were felt in regard to possession from the scrummages, but here again despite being heavily outweighed (only two of the forwards were over thirteen stone) a fair share of the ball was obtained, whilst correct packing saw the heavy New Zealand Juniors pack frequently pushed back in the fine match between the two teams. That the visitors impressed New Zealanders there is no doubt, the side’s delightful handling and backing-up by a speedy rearguard making the Japanese popular figures wherever they appeared.

Leading players were Y. Sakata, a wing moulded in the R. A. Jarden lines, and who scored four tries against New Zealand Juniors; S. Mantani, a well-equipped full-back, with courage supreme; A.Yokoi, who knew all about centre play; M. Ozaki, Yokoi’s partner; T. Katsuraguchi, a full-back turned five-eighth; H. Ogasawara and M. Horikoshi, the two locks, T. Saruta, a prop, and M. Ishida, a flank forward.”

From: “The 1969 Rugby Almanack of N.Z.” p. 40.

Ash Gardiner - NZ Juniors captain