ESPN Africa Secures Japan Rugby League One

Japanese Rugby League kicks off on ESPN Africa this December
featuring Rugby World Cup winning Springboks Faf De Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel and Pieter Steph du Toit, amongst others

ESPN Africa today announced an exciting addition to its programming for sports fans across the continent as it has secured the broadcast rights to Japan Rugby League One (Division 1). Adding to its diverse variety of programming for rugby enthusiasts to enjoy, this exhilarating new league kicked off on ESPN this past weekend and will run for the next six months, leading up to the finals in May 2024.

The Japan Rugby League One has 25 foreign players from seven different countries who participated at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, competing in the 2023/24 season of this prestigious league. The Springbok players signed up to play are: Franco Mostert (Mie Honda Heat), Pieter Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Damien de Allende (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Jesse Kriel (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Cheslin Kolbe (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath) and Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs).

They will be facing rugby giants led by celebrated coaches such as the Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Steve Hansen (Toyota Verblitz), five times-Super Rugby-winning and ex-Wallabies coach Robbie Deans (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), two-time Super Rugby-winning coach Frans Ludeke (Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay), as well as the two-time Super Rugby finalist coaches Todd Blackadder (Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo) and Johan Ackerman (Urayasu DRocks).

The Japan Rugby League One enthrals audiences with its relentless intensity, fast-paced action, and strategic finesse, delivering an electrifying and captivating experience that keeps fans engaged throughout every match. The league’s vision is to grow the sport in the country while providing a springboard to showcase the best of the league’s talent on the international stage. The league focusses on four pillars: creating memorable experiences for its  fans, the teams, the companies and the communities.

12 teams from across Japan compete in the first division, with six and five in the second and third divisions respectively. Catering to rugby fans across the continent, two matches per week of Division 1 will air live on ESPN or ESPN2, with repeat broadcasts for additional viewing options, building up to the final in May 2024.

“We are delighted to add the Japan Rugby League One to our programming line-up this December,” said Kyle De Klerk, Director: Sports at the Walt Disney Company Africa. “Following the mass interest in the recent Rugby World Cup, our audiences can continue to follow their heroes’ progress in Japan throughout the season.”

For updates regarding ESPN Africa programming, football and other sports, fans can connect to @ESPNAfrica on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit

By Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB | Actor | Armourer | Tech Enthusiast With over two decades in the film industry, I'm a seasoned actor and skilled armourer. I hold numerous certifications in acting and filmmaking, complemented by degrees and diplomas in IT and technology, giving me a unique blend of creative and technical expertise. When I'm not on set or in the workshop, you'll find me immersed in the world of gaming and VR, fuelling my passion for cutting-edge technology. Connect with me: X / Twitter Facebook Instagram Mastodon Threads Explore my work on SAMDB IMDb