sunwolvesThe first Japanese team to play in Super Rugby has been christened the “Sunwolves”, organisers announced Monday, as the tournament looks to expand its global footprint for the 2016 season.

The “new era” in Super Rugby will see an expanded 18-team competition featuring debut appearances from both a Japanese and an Argentinean team, the first time those countries have been included.

They will join existing member teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to fight across four conferences for a new chrome and gold-plated trophy.

Tournament organisers said the Japanese team’s name was taken from the country’s monniker as the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

“It’s an exciting time for the sport and also for fans throughout Japan who can start getting behind the brand, identity and ethos of their Super Rugby team,” South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby (SANZAR) interim chief Brendan Morris was quoted as saying in a press release announcing the name.

The teams logo shows the red and white face of a snarling wolf.

Japanese social media users largely reacted positively to the new name.

“Sunwolves sounds cool,” wrote @krtyms1341 on Twitter.

Others fretted that the name might not be the easiest word for a Japanese speaker to utter correctly.

“It’s cool. Hard to pronounce though,” wrote @tsugu928.

Japan is currently experiencing a flurry of interest in the sport following the Brave Blossoms record breaking performance in the current World Cup. 

With just one victory to their name in the 24-years prior to the current tournament they have stunned with victories over both South Africa and Samoa.

The Super Rugby season will kick off with a double-header on February 26 in which the Otago Highlanders will begin their title defence in Auckland while in Australia, the ACT Brumbies will host the Wellington Hurricanes.

The Sunwolves will then play their first game against the Golden Lions on February 27 at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium — the first Super Rugby match to be played in that country. 

The Argentinean team name has yet to be announced. – Agence France-Presse

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