Fumiaki Tanaka-Joe Wheeler enjoy some banter in middle of Super Rugby game

Fumiaki Tanaka admits he was close to tears before Saturday night's Super Rugby game against the Highlanders in Invercargill.

Not because the now Sunwolves halfback misses his former Highlanders team mates, but because someone pointed him towards the tribute song Highlanders lock Joe Wheeler did for him before the game.

Wheeler penned a song to the music of Adelle's hit song Hello as a comical tribute to Tanaka.

"Before the game I laughed so much. I was about to cry, I was almost in tears," Tanaka said after the 40-15 loss to the Highlanders.

"I was so excited to play against them and so fortunate to play against them. Somehow I was hoping to put pressure on the Highlanders. I was able to put some pressure to Nuggy [Aaron Smith], [but] I got so much pressure off him and also Joe Wheeler."

Despite being in the middle of a Super Rugby fixture on Saturday night the friendship prompted some laughs during the game in Invercargill.

"In the ruck [Wheeler] was grabbing me, I was trying to get him off and he was just laughing at me."

Tanaka made a big impact during his four years playing in Dunedin, both with his ability to clear the ball quickly as a halfback and also in terms of his popularity within the team off the field.

When asked after the game if he missed Dunedin, the answer was prompt.

"Yes," he said.

"I miss my Highlanders team mates and coaches."

Tanaka was part of the Highlanders team which sky-rocketed up the Super Rugby ladder and in 2015 won the title.

His switch to the Sunwolves has seen him join a team which is trying to just be competitive in Super Rugby.

"At the moment we are still trying to establish the team so it's a different excitement from the Highlanders."


Photo By: Robyn Edie (Sunwolves halfback Fumiaki Tanaka ready to feed the ball into a scrum as Highlanders player Aaron Smith, on right, and referee Jamie Nutbrown, left, look on).