Get the Sport24 daily newsletter delivered to your Inbox!


    Sunwolves howling at the moon as Lions prowl

    2016-02-25 10:29

    Tokyo - Japan's Sunwolves face a baptism of fire in Super Rugby after filling their playing roster only days ago and with their coach returning just in time from compassionate leave.

    The new Tokyo franchise host the Johannesburg-based Lions on Saturday hoping to avoid a mauling after joining an expanded 18-team competition alongside Argentine side the Jaguares and South Africa's Kings.

    The Sunwolves suffered a fresh setback last week when head coach Mark Hammett was forced to leave the team's training camp on Japan's honeymoon island of Okinawa following the death of his mother.

    "Defence is likely to be the key," said Sunwolves captain Shota Horie, the Japan hooker who previously played for the Melbourne Rebels in 2013-14.

    "We have to be mindful of that when we go and play and it will be important for the team to come together and play as one."

    Hammett is scheduled to return to Japan on Friday after flying back to New Zealand for the funeral, having left his side's fine tuning to assistant coach Filo Tiatia.

    With preparations already in disarray after failing to name their playing and coaching staff until late December, the Sunwolves are expected to face a pummelling against the southern hemisphere's hulking giants.

    Hammett only completed his final 39-man squad earlier in the week, bringing in local prop Takuma Asahara and Tasman Makos wing Viliami Lolohea.

    Also as part of a flurry of last-minute appointments, Atsushi Tanabe joins as backs and skills coach, making him Japan's first Super Rugby coach.

    Ricoh Black Rams wing Amanaki Lotoahea misses out through injury, meanwhile, and the jet-heeled Akihito Yamada could yet leave the Sunwolves early in the season to play for Japan's sevens team at this year's Rio Olympics.

    Japan, once the whipping boys of the World Cup, caused shockwaves by winning three of their four games at last year's tournament in England, including an astonishing 34-32 upset over two-time world champions South Africa.

    However, the forward momentum gained under Australian coach Eddie Jones has since given way to inertia at national and Super level.

    As the Sunwolves stalled over appointments, Japan officials also failed to name a stand-in for the Brave Blossoms to fill in until new coach Jamie Joseph arrives in August after his current job with the Highlanders ends.

    Sunwolves hopes were dealt a further blow after several Japan World Cup stars snubbed the Wolves - among them national skipper Michael Leitch and Japan's new sporting pin-up, fullback Ayumu Goromaru, who opted to join the Reds in Queensland.

    The Sunwolves warmed up for the season by beating a Japanese Top League select side 52-24 two weeks ago, but produced little to suggest the Lions will be quaking in their boots.

    Read More On:  sunwolves super rugby rugby

    What To Read Next

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    Live Video Streaming
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk


    23 February 2017
    • Rebels v Blues, AAMI Park 10:45
    24 February 2017
    • Highlanders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Reds v Sharks, Suncorp Stadium 11:00
    25 February 2017
    • Sunwolves v Hurricanes, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Brumbies, AMI Stadium 08:35
    • Waratahs v Force, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Cheetahs v Lions, Toyota Stadium 15:05
    • Kings v Jaguares, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 17:15
    • Stormers v Bulls, Cape Town 19:30


    06 August 2016
    30 July 2016
    23 July 2016
    22 July 2016
    16 July 2016
    15 July 2016
    09 July 2016
    08 July 2016
    02 July 2016
    01 July 2016
    29 May 2016
    28 May 2016
    27 May 2016
    21 May 2016
    20 May 2016
    14 May 2016
    13 May 2016
    07 May 2016
    06 May 2016
    30 April 2016
    29 April 2016
    24 April 2016
    23 April 2016
    22 April 2016
    16 April 2016
    15 April 2016
    09 April 2016
    08 April 2016
    03 April 2016
    02 April 2016
    01 April 2016
    27 March 2016
    26 March 2016
    25 March 2016
    19 March 2016
    18 March 2016
    12 March 2016
    11 March 2016
    05 March 2016
    04 March 2016
    27 February 2016
    26 February 2016

    Opinion Poll

    Jake White will leave his job as Montpellier coach next year. Where would you like to see the former Springbok coach, coach next?

    The ultimate Super Rugby quiz!

    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.