Kubota Spears win against the Ricoh Rams last weekend, 21-18, signalled a growing optimism around the Funabashi-based club and helped maintain a little distance between them and the relegation zone. After suffering from relegation in 2011, the current set of players and coaches are hoping to improve on their mid-table position and start climbing up the table.
We spoke with the former Highlanders player and current Kubota Spears Forwards Coach, Alando Soakai, about his team’s ambitions in the Top League.
“We’ve got Frans Ludeke that used to coach the Bulls in Super Rugby and it’s his first year coaching in Japan, so he’s bringing in fresh ideas, and trying to build the Kubota way of playing the game. We’ve got Haru Tatekawa, the captain of the Japan national team…who’s a great leader.”
“We’ve got to be a bit more consistent. What we’ve been building over the past few months, compared to the past few years, I feel that we are building nicely and we’ve just got to turn those close losses into wins. We are a team that’s ambitious about trying to get into the top eight.”
Alando has played a key role in trying to change Kubota’s fortunes, transitioning from a player to a coaching role within his 6 years at the club. “I didn’t start thinking about a coaching career until about two years ago. It was during that time that I started to do a bit of coaching with the players and then the coach said ‘Alando, I want you to do this and that’ and I thought ‘Ok, I’m happy to do it!’ It helped me plant that seed at the club and it actually worked quite well.”
Alando’s successful spell here in Japan can largely be attributed to his proactive and positive approach to rugby and life in general.
“You’ve got to be open-minded, be outgoing, get amongst it, and have the ability to adapt. Obviously, you are living in a different culture, with a different language; there are things that get done quickly and there are things that are done slowly here.”
Also striking the right family and work-life balance is key to a successful stint here in Japan. “I feel personally, that you have got to have your loved ones close to you, but everyone’s circumstances are quite different. I’ve seen families and couples break up because of the long distance and the language barrier. I’ve seen partners just stay home, sitting between four walls, and not exploring what’s outside. Then all of a sudden, you see players start heading back.”
“You’ve got to enjoy Japanese culture by mixing it up with your teammates; you go out and have your dinners and your beers, you go and do some sightseeing, you learn the language and culture and that all helps you to enjoy this place. You’ve got to put time and effort into it and stay busy.”
So, if you’re thinking of playing or coaching in Japan, be sure to listen to Alando’s advice and “get amongst it!”
If you would like to find out more about Alando Soakai and his experiences here in Japan, plus all the latest news from Japanese rugby, please listen to the JRugby Podcast on SoundCloud or i-Tunes. Also, if you would like regular updates, please like our facebook page or follow us on Twitter.