The Queensland Reds have been gripped by ‘Goru fever’, after showing off their new Japanese pin-up boy Ayumu Goromaru, who is set to make his first appearance on Friday for the Super Rugby team.
Eight Japanese TV crews were on hand to greet their country’s World Cup hero, who masterminded the Brave Blossoms’ stunning 34-32 upset win over South Africa last year – one of the biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup history.
Goromaru can no longer walk the streets of Japan without being mobbed but the 29-year-old can expect a far more low-key lifestyle in Brisbane, where he landed early on Saturday morning, the fullback seeking to test himself overseas for the first time in his storied career.
“Brisbane is a beautiful city. I’m really looking forward to living here,” the quietly spoken Goromaru told a packed media conference at Ballymore Stadium, with the help of a translator.
Coach Richard Graham says he has high expectations of Goromaru, whose razor-sharp goalkicking will be a major boost this season for the Reds.
“My expectations are high because of the quality of footballer he is,” Graham said.
“There’s no doubt we didn’t kick well as a side last year. I think our average was below 60 per cent.
“Having a guy who kicks anywhere between 85 and 94 per cent over the last few seasons is fairly valuable.
“A lot of the games we’ve lost recently have been small margins, inside seven (points), so having a guy who can kick goals is important.”
Graham said a decision on Goromaru’s involvement on Friday night in the team’s final pre-season trial against the Brumbies would be made on Tuesday.
But it’s expected he will figure in some capacity, most likely off the bench, meaning a likely positional shift for Karmichael Hunt, who has been Queensland’s fullback in pre-season.
Goromaru’s recruitment has already proved a shrewd bit of off-field business for the Reds, who have netted a new sponsor, Japanese gas appliances company Rinnai, courtesy of his influence.
The Reds have also set up a special ‘Goromaru membership’ for Japanese fans, while home-and-away jerseys with his number on the back have been selling at an unprecedented rate.
A contingent of Japanese journalists is to stay in Brisbane throughout the course of Goromaru’s time with the Reds, tracking his every move.
Goromaru last year was made a certified ‘Master of Ninjas’ by the Japan Ninja Council, which said it awarded him the honour because his kicking pose was reminiscent of how ancient stealth warriors would prepare for battle.
A bronze statue of Goromaru was erected in Tokyo as part of the city’s Christmas celebrations, while a baby giraffe at a Japanese zoo was also named after him.