Kobelco Steelers finished the 2016-17 in fourth place and will be looking to progress to the final four play-offs in the new league format this time around with a host of big names in their squad.
Sunwolves and Japan hooker Takeshu Kizu will be a familiar name for followers of Japanese rugby, while Ryohei Yamanaka made his mark on the Sunwolves team with a try in the final game of the season against Blues.
Head coach Jim McKay has signed Australia centre Adam Ashley-Cooper from Top 14 side Bordeaux, complimenting foreign stars Andy Ellis and Codey Rei in the backs. Fraser Anderson and Rakuhei Yamashita both impressed in the back-line last season and will continue to play a pivotal role in the Kobelco side this term.
Steelers’ downfall last season was their kicking – recording the lowest conversion-rate in the league last term (67%) after lowly Toyota Industries Shuttles (67%). A competent kicker could be the difference between a top four finish and a season to forget.
Kobelco were quick out of the blocks in 2016-17, with 33% of their total tries coming in the first 20 minutes of games last season. With the overseas and domestic arrivals this season, they should comfortably have the strength in-depth in the squad to maintain that pace over the full 80.