Kotaro Matsushima

Kotaro Munyaradzi Matsushima (Japanese: 松島 幸太朗; born (1993-02-26)26 February 1993) is a South African-born Japanese international rugby union player, currently playing for Top League side Suntory Sungoliath, for Super Rugby side the Sunwolves, and for the Japan national team. He is a utility back who can play as a winger, fullback or outside centre.[2][3][1]

Kotaro Matsushima
Matsushima during a match against Russia, September 2019
Full nameKotaro Munyaradzi Matsushima[1]
Date of birth (1993-02-26) 26 February 1993
Place of birthPretoria, South Africa
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Weight87 kg (192 lb; 13 st 10 lb)
SchoolTōin Gakuen High School
Rugby union career
Position(s) Wing, Fullback, Centre
Current team Suntory Sungoliath
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
2013 Sharks 2 (5)
2014– Suntory Sungoliath 49 (110)
2015 Eastern Suburbs 7 (5)
2016 Rebels 5 (0)
2017–2018 Sunwolves 14 (7)
Correct as of 20 September 2019
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
2014– Japan 35 (100)
Correct as of 20 September 2019

Early life

Matsushima was born in Pretoria, South Africa, to a Japanese mother and a Zimbabwean father. He acquired Japanese nationality at the age of 5 and moved to Japan the following year with his family. After graduating from the local elementary school in Tokyo (where he played soccer), he lived for one year in South Africa and started playing rugby.[4] He finished his junior schooling at Graeme College in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. He played for the U13a rugby side and won the most outstanding player of the year award. He returned to Japan at the age of 13 and finished his schooling at Tōin Gakuen High School in Yokohama.[5]

Club career

Youth rugby / Sharks

Matsushima returned to South Africa in 2012, enrolling at the Sharks Academy in Durban, becoming the first Japanese player to do so.[6] He played Under-20 club rugby for Harlequins and started twelve matches for the Sharks U19 side in the 2012 Under-19 Provincial Championship, scoring three tries as his side reached the semi-final of the competition, where they lost 46–35 to the Blue Bulls U19 side despite a Matsushima try early in the second half.[7] At the end of 2012, Matsushima was also invited to attend a training camp for the South African Under-20 team in preparation for the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship.[8]

Matsushima made his first class debut for a Sharks XV side during the 2013 Vodacom Cup competition, starting their final round-robin match against Argentine side Pampas XV. He took just three minutes to add his name to the scoresheet by scoring an early try to set the Sharks on their way to a 46–31 victory in the match in Durban.[9][10] He also played in their quarter-final match against eventual champions Golden Lions, but could not prevent his side suffering a 25–42 loss to be eliminated from the competition.[11] In the latter half of 2013, he featured prominently for the Sharks U21 side in the 2013 Under-21 Provincial Championship, scoring three tries in eleven starts as his side reached the semi-finals of the competition, where they were eliminated by the Blue Bulls U21s.[12]

Suntory Sungoliath

Matsushima joined Japanese Top League side Suntory Sungoliath prior to the 2014–15 Top League season. He made his debut for the side in the opening round of the tournament in a 17–13 victory over Coca-Cola Red Sparks. Two more appearances followed in the pool stage of the competition – against Kintetsu Liners and NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes – to help his side finish in second position in Pool B to qualify for Group 1, the title play-offs. He started all seven of their matches in Group 1 in the outside centre position and scored four tries – two of those in their final group match against Toyota Verblitz in a 40–19 victory – as they finished fifth in the group to qualify for the wildcard play-offs.

His performances also earned him an inclusion in the Top League Team of the Season.[13]

Super Rugby

Matsushima joined Australian Super Rugby side the Waratahs prior to the 2015 Super Rugby season.[14]

He joined Australian Super Rugby side the Rebels on a short-term deal for the 2016 Super Rugby season.[15]


Matsushima made his international debut for Japan on 3 May 2014 in a 2014 Asian Five Nations match (which doubled as a 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifier) against the Philippines in Manila. He scored tries in the 36th and 71st minutes of the match to help Japan secure a comprehensive 99–10 victory over the hosts.[16][17] He also played in their next match against Sri Lanka, scoring a try in their 132–10 victory,[18] as well as their next match against South Korea[19] and in test matches against Samoa, Romania and Georgia.

He scored Japan's first World Cup hat-trick against Russia on 20 September 2019 in the opening game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Tokyo and was also awarded the player of the match in the same match.[20]

Super Rugby statistics

As of 26 July 2016[21]
2015 Waratahs00000000000
2016 Rebels5051050000000


  1. "ESPN Scrum Player Profile Kotaro Matsushima". Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  2. "SA Rugby Player Profile – Kotaro Matsushima". South African Rugby Union. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  3. "It's Rugby Player Profile Kotaro Matsushima". South African Rugby Union. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  4. 開幕戦3トライ 松島幸太朗「悲しみを乗り越えて」日本の至宝にフライデイ、2019年09月20日
  5. O'Donoghue, J.J.; Gray, Gavan. "Imagining a Japan that thinks beyond blood and binary distinctions". Community. The Japan Times. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  6. "Earthquake Disaster Fund". KZN Rugby. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  7. "SA Rugby Match Centre – Blue Bulls 46-35 Sharks". South African Rugby Union. 20 October 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  8. "Bokkies hou eerste oefenkamp vir Wêreldtoernooi" (in Afrikaans). Beeld. 6 November 2012. Archived from the original on 5 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  9. "SA Rugby Match Centre – Sharks XV 46-31 ICBC Pampas XV". South African Rugby Union. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  10. "Sharks XV finish top". Sharks. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  11. "SA Rugby Match Centre – Sharks XV 25-42 MTN Golden Lions". South African Rugby Union. 3 May 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  12. "SA Rugby Match Centre – Vodacom Blue Bulls 36-13 The Sharks U21". South African Rugby Union. 19 October 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  13. "「ジャパンラグビー トップリーグ2014–2015 年間表彰式」受賞者決定のお知らせ" [Winners at 2014–2015 Top League awards ceremony] (in Japanese). Top League. 2 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  14. "Matsushima signs with Waratahs" (Press release). Waratahs. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  15. "Rebels sign Matsushima" (Press release). Melbourne Rebels. 9 February 2016. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  16. "Philippines v Japan at Silangan". ESPN Scrum. 3 May 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  17. "2014 Asian 5 Nations, TOP 5, Match 3". World Rugby. 3 May 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  18. "2014 Asian 5 Nations, TOP 5, Match 6". World Rugby. 10 May 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  19. "2014 Asian 5 Nations, TOP 5, Match 7". World Rugby. 17 May 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  20. Sep 20, A. P.; ET, 2019 at 8:54a (20 September 2019). "Host Japan beats Russia 30-10 in Rugby World Cup opener". FOX Sports. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  21. "Player Statistics". its rugby. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
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