Sunwolves are 'heroes' in Japan
Cape Town - The Sunwolves have come close numerous times, but are still winless in their maiden season of Super Rugby.
They lost 31-32 to the Cheetahs and 27-30 to the Bulls - both at home - and then came within an inch of defeating the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend before going down 28-33.
The task this weekend is a little trickier for the Japanese side as they prepare for battle against the Stormers at Newlands.
Coach Mark Hammett spoke to media in Cape Town on Thursday, and he said that results were not the most important thing for his side this season.
"I’m more concerned about individual performance than results," he said.
"If we were coaching a different team that might be different. We have to make sure that we have individuals getting better with their understanding, not just on the field but off it with what goes into a Super Rugby week.
"At the end of the day if we keep getting that right and getting better and better then the actual result takes care of itself.
The Sunwolves were met by a resilient Kings defence last weekend and, despite dominating most of the second half, could not get over the line.
"I don’t want to underplay the fact that we should have won that game last week," said Hammett.
"Out of all the games this year, that one should have been ... probably just our composure to get over the line in those 15 or 20 minutes wasn’t there. That’s probably cost us our first Super win."
Despite that, the Sunwolves are heroes to a Japanese rugby public that is consistently gaining momentum.
Japan are set to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while their win over the Springboks in the 2015 tournament remains one of the most historic matches in the sport's history.
"In Japan there is absolutely no doubt, having spoken to Robbie Deans (coach of the Panasonic Wild Knights) when I got over there, he said the growth in the game - not just the playing ability but also the support and the fans - is huge and it really is," Hammett explained.
"These guys are all seen as heroes as they walk around.
"I’m not saying they perceive themselves as heroes but certainly the perception of the fans is that.
"It’s really grown off the back of the World Cup and then looking forward to 2019."
Sunwolves captain Shota Horie, who started at hooker for Japan that day, also acknowledged the impact the win over the Boks has had.
"Not just for the players, but for Japanese rugby as a whole," he said.
"The players worked really hard and it was a really positive thing for us."
Friday's match kicks off at 19:00.
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Oli Kebble
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Damian de Allende
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Mifiposeti Paea, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Tomas Leonardi, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Timothy Bond, 4 Shinya Makabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (captain), 1 Masataka Mikami
Substitutes: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura