The Japanese Top League isn’t exactly a high profile competition, but the wages on offer has tempted many top class players from around the globe in recent years. From Sonny Bill Williams and Berrick Barnes to Jaque Fourie and James Haskell. The presence of these big name foreign imports has greatly enhanced the standard of the league over recent years, with the aim of improving Japan’s talent pool ahead of the 2019 World Cup, which will be hosted by the East Asian island nation.
All the teams in the Top League are generally owned by a large company, who will lend their name to the club, along with a particularly brilliant and slightly baffling (to Western eyes at least) name. The Coca-Cola West Red Sparks are, as you might have guessed, owned by the Japanese arm of the big red fizzy drink firm. They hail from Fukuoka city, Kyūshū, and as for the Red Sparks part… er… well we have no idea, and we’re even worse at Japanese than we are at most non-English languages, so if you’ve got any ideas, let us know!
The Red Sparks have a few players in their squads whose names will be familiar to Premiership and Super Rugby fans. Samoan controversy machine and former Bath and Gloucester centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is on the books, and surely every rugby fan with a vague sense of humour knows all about Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins, who made a high profile move to Japan after last year’s Super Rugby season in order to provide for his ill father. Ledge, obviously.
The Canterbury jersey’s that The Badge and company trotted out in this season is a pretty familiar (read, old) template. In fact this particular style is very similar to the template Canterbury were using all the way back in 2011 and it’s a popular one, too – the basic design here is the same as the one used for the 2015 Emirates Lions shirts. It’s hard to dislike, particularly, especially in the classic Coke shade of red… but it’s a bit… well… meh…
The alternate shirt is a little more interesting, if just because we like the combination of the black shirt with the bright red piping looks pretty badass, though we’d have preferred the badges and logos to be red too, but we’d imagine Coke has some sort of rule about the logo only being white, which presumably had a knock-on effect to the rest of the badges.
It’s hard not to get a massive sense of deja vu when we look at these designs. There’s nothing unattractive about them per se, but we’ve seen similar shirts so many times over the last five years, we just can’t get enthusiastic about it. Still, it’s not offensive… but the Badger deserves better, we think.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: BORINGLY SHIT