JRLO Week 6 Preview: Steelers Vs Verblitz


League One returns after its one-week break.

Kobe expecting a stern test in Nagoya to affirm season worthiness.

What Happened Last Match?

Kobe Steelers

Despite falling into an early hole to an Ash Dixon try and a Lomano Lemeki PG, Kobe quickly righted their ship in Chiba against NEC Green Rockets to win both halves convincingly. Within 30 minutes on either side of the break, Ataata Moeakiola secured a hat-trick for the Steelers in his best game yet, as Kobe ran in 7 tries to NEC’s 2 in a 48-17 rout in which saw them rise to 8th in the League One table.

Match highlights

Toyota Verblitz

Verblitz were pushed to their limits against a strong Black Rams side that outscored the hosts 3 tries to 2. Tian Falcon’s boot, however, and the upper hand at the breakdown, kept the Verblitz’s noses out in front in the first half while the Totota defense shut down the Ricoh attack enough to make a late Charlie Lawrence (ex Kobe Steel) try enought to secure their 2nd win in a row after a huge loss to Suntory and 2 cancelled games.

Match highlights

The Squads


Of note: Try scorer last week, Charlie Lawrence, will want to put in a good perfomance against his former club.


Of note: Seungsin Lee captains the team at inside center this week. First appearence for Issei Shige (who has struggled with various injuries) for a long time at 22. JD Schickerling starting at 6 gives Kobe multiple lock options come subs time. Go Maeda gets a chance to prove himself at 7 in his first ever start.

This is a strong 4,5,6,7,8 – at least in terms of tackling statistics (see below).


Anyone with an interest in the fortunes of the 2022 Kobe Steelers (and who has ridden the rollercoaster of the opening 5 weeks) has probably heard (or has indeed been making) knowing and assured comments about how the upcoming showdown with the Verblitz will define the season, or prove whether the team is capable of mounting a serious challenge to be among the final 4 teams that enter the season finals.

Neither team began their campaigns well.

Kobe were rocked in consecutive games by Shining Arcs and then the Eagles, while Verblitz were welcomed to League One in week 2 to a 8-50 smackdown at the hands of Suntory. It was a shame for them that the heavy loss to Sungloiath was sandwiched between two cancelled games, but they finally got their season back on track with 2 useful consecutive wins – against Brave Lupus and Black Rams in weeks 4 and 5.

We should not feel too sorry for them though, as they recived bonus-point wins for the two Covid cancellations! The Steelers in turn have been playing much better footy in the past 3 games, during which they did lose to Wild Knights but were very competitive in defeat, and probably should have won the game.

In any case, it is true that Kobe Steelers can hardly afford to lose another and fall to 2-4, while Toyota are sitting pretty in 3rd spot with 4 wins from 5.

I know most Steelers fans will this week be worrying about the solid back row of Verblitz, which boasts a mouth-watering trio of World Rugby Player of The Year Pieter Steph du Toit at 6, last week’s Player of the Match Masato Furukawa at 7, and possibly Japan’s best ever player Kazuki Himeno at 8. This is a fair assessment. Kobe will need to be at their best at the breakdown to secure any chance of good ball and to avoid committing turnovers. Ruck success so far stands at 94% for both teams (see below.)

Apart from this obvious area, I’m not in the mood for an in-depth analysis of the various matchups this Saturday.

So instead, its stats time! (Yes, already).

And let’s start with a biggie. Tackle success rate. (For the Kobe Steelers only)

Of course there are various and obvious weaknesses in looking at raw statistics like these, and simply deciding from them who is and who isn’t a ‘good tackler’ just can’t be done. For one, they are taken from a flat percentage and show nothing of an individual’s improvement (or not) over any number of games. There are also (rare) instances where missed tackles can be a ‘good thing’ for a game’s situational outcome. I’m not going to go into all of that here because you can search the internet and find plenty of literature why using tackle success % alone is minefield territory.

However, you can’t just ignore them either! Stiff defense is what gets you over the line in more wins than when it contributes to your losses. That is ridiculously obvious.

So without further ado, here are the 2022 Kobe forwards and backs ranked in terms of tackle success, with the number of attempted tackles in the right column.


NameTackle Success (%)Number of Attempts
Shohei Maekawa10025
Hiroshi Yamashita10024
Takura Imamura9734
Naohiro Kotaki9145
Jiwon Gu9132
Seokhwan Jang9070
Hikaru Hashimoto9031
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti8834
JD Schickerling8628
Brody McCurran8228
Isileli Nakajima8142
Hirotaka Hirabara7731
Daiki Hashimoto7662
Ryuhei Arita7423
Kenta Matsuoka7218

Quick Take-aways

  • The Kobe hookers are underperforming. In fact, least-used, new addition Wang is a much surer tackler (7/7, 100%) than the others so far – when looking only at hard data. Let’s hope that Arita and Matsuoka can step it up a bit this week.
  • A lot of work is coming captain Daiki Hashimoto’s way, and he isn’t handling it as well as he would want to. He doesn’t feature this week, and instead JD Schickerling takes a step back to 6 (where he has plenty of experience in South Africa) and Go Maeda takes the openside 7. He has only played 3 minutes so far and has made 3 tackles (100% success rate though!) He will be busy Saturday. Talented, sure-tackling, Takara Imamura can cover either 2nd or back row from the 19 jersey (there are actually 4 capable locks in the Steelers 23).
  • Veterans Maekawa and Yambu Yamashita have been solid in defense so far. I had thought Maekawa might be done, but he has made me sit up and take notice this year. He has returned some of the much needed steel to the team, and this week will cover the back row in the 20 jersey.
  • Seokhwan Jang is a bloody machine! Doesn’t matter where you play him. End of. Kobe’s best forward. By miles.


NameTackle Success (%)Number of Attempts
Fraser Anderson1006
Richard Buckman9733
Atsushi Hiwasa8527
Aaron Cruden8233
Tim Lafaele7928
Seungsin Lee7446
Ataata Moeakiola7225
Shunsuke Iseki6414
Rakuhei Yamashita6113
Daiki Nakajima6020
Ryohei Yamanaka4717

Quick Take-aways

  • A ton of work is being asked of Kobe’s 9,10,12. Is it that other teams fancy their chances up our gut, or is this a normal data spread?
  • The wingers’ tackle statistics are far from reassuring (apart from Anderson).
  • Ryohei Yamanaka’s mostly shocking (although better recently – and this helps show the danger of looking at stats alone) season is clearly reflected in his god-awful tackle stats!

If, by the way, you are itching to compare the Kobe Steelers combined tackle success rate with that of Verblitz, here it is:

Steelers Tackle SuccessVerblitz Tackle Success

Let’s compare the teams’ set play stats next:

TeamLineouts wonRucks wonScrums won
Line outs ok but Steel Scrum?????

And the offensive production comparison?

Well, that is trickier as Kobe’s data is over 5 games, while Verblitz have only played 3. Still, the gain meters avg. metric is usually a very telling statistic of a team’s power and efficiency with ball in hand. You can work out the averages for the rest in your own heads.

MetricSteelers *5 gamesVerblitz *3 games
Gain Meters35592007
Gain AVG7.266.01
Clean breaks309
Line breaks11857

Let’s next focus once more on individual perfomances.


NameCarriesGain Meters
Seokhwan Jang41215
Isileli Nakajima27129
Takara Imamura1784
JD Shickerling16156
Gerard Cowley Tuioti16119
Naohiro Kotaki1676
Brodi McCurran14140
Ryuhei Arita1453
Shohei Maekawa12102
Daiki Hashimoto1270
Jiwon Gu1252
Hikaru Hashimoto877
Kenta Matsuoka834
Hiroshi Yamashita824

(It’s worth noting also that Jang has 32 passes which is far more than any other forward or back, apart from the 2 scrummies, 2 stand offs, and FB Yamanaka.)


NameCarriesGain Meters
Ataata Moeakiola45392
Seungsin Lee37342
Ryohei Yamanaka27229
Aaron Cruden25221
Timothy Lafaele23196
Rakuhei Yamashita22233
Richard Buckman22183
Shinsuke Iseki16159
Fraser Anderson1481
Atsushi Hiwasa1193
Daiki Nakajima820

Again, I’ll leave it to you guys to slowly pore over those and work out averages and whatnot, but it is easy to see who the workhorses are, and (to a degree) see what Kobe are trying to do in terms of strategy.

(Referring to the table above comparing the 2 teams, you can see that Verblitz are averaging more passes (158) and carries (111) per game than Kobe (152) and (98) repectively. The Steelers are attempting far fewer offloads than they have in the previous 3 season (5.8 pergame – with Toyota at 8.)

I really don’t intend to get into the prediction side of things for this one. Both sides have had a couple of nice wins moving into week 6. Both teams have had the same 2 weeks to prepare and get their players match fit. Both have had ample opportunity to prepare tactically for the other.

Let’s hope for a good game!

Personally I see Kobe’s replacements as having a slight edge on Verblitz. If the Steelers can start competitively (a weakness this season) and remain eithe rahead or in touch heading into the second 40, I think we can see them advance to 3 and 3 on the season, make a bit of a statement of intent, and give the Kobe fans good reason for hopeful optimism going forward.

Toyota Verblitz Vs Kobe Steelers
Saturday 19th February. 14:30~
Paloma Mizuho Rugby Stadium, Nagoya, Aichi.
Rain expected. 80-90% chance.

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