The Melbourne Rebels have announced the signing of Japan and Panasonic Wild Knights hooker Shota Horie for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Horie will join the Rebels in the early part of December and will be available for Japanese selection throughout stages of the Rebels' 2013 campaign.
With the Melbourne Rebels playing the opening match of the 2013 Super Rugby season, Horie is in line to be the first Japanese player ever to play Super Rugby in the competition's 17-year history.
The industrious hooker debuted for Otago in this year's ITM Cup, and was part of the Japanese national side in the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
"I am honoured to become a part of the Melbourne Rebels," said Horie.
"I would like to contribute to the team's success as much as I can and also to prove the potential of Japanese players in Super rugby.
"I appreciate the understanding and support to [be able to] provide me [with] this great opportunity from Panasonic. I will make the best effort to repay all the support I have had [from them]."
Rebels head coach Damien Hill, having spent three years coaching in Japan, understands the significance of this signing and applauds the stance taken by Horie in representing Japanese players in Super Rugby.
"The work ethic of all Japanese players is of the highest order, to have him as part of this club will have an immediate impact," said Hill.
"Culture and values are a strong part of Japan, as they are here at the Rebels, and we are thrilled to have Shota on board.
"He comes with a point to prove, as do most of our players we bring from afar. That drive will be infectious, and will bring the best out of all the hookers at the club.
"We currently have an environment where there is competition in all spots, which is exactly what we want at the club. The hooking spot is certainly one position that is open at present."
Horie will join Highlanders scrum-half Fumiaka Tanaka as one of two Japanese signings in Super Rugby for 2013, a move that will create plenty of momentum in their homeland, and throughout the southern hemisphere.