South Africa star Marx secures Lions release to make short-term Japan move

South Africa hooker Malcolm Marx will take a six-month "sabbatical" in Japan after the Rugby World Cup, the Lions announced on Friday.

The 24-year-old has been linked with a move to the Docomo Red Hurricanes, who play in Japan's Top League.

Marx's destination in Japan was not disclosed by the Lions and SA Rugby, but they said he would head there after this year's global tournament, which begins in September.

Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli said the franchise had been determined to "look after his wellbeing".

Although Marx will have a spell overseas, he has agreed an extended contract with his Johannesburg-based Super Rugby side that will keep him with the Lions until 2021.

A statement confirming the deal said: "Lions Rugby Company, together with SA Rugby, and the newly established contracting model have been able to retain the services of the outstanding Springbok hooker by ensuring the player’s career is managed and sustained.

"Marx will be able to enjoy a temporary release after the 2019 Rugby World Cup for a sabbatical in Japan and he will return to South Africa and the Lions in June 2020."

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said it was "very good news indeed" that Marx had committed to return to play for the Lions after his spell in Japan.

Marx added: "For now I am totally focused on the Lions' Super Rugby campaign and forming part of the Springboks for 2019."

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