Super Rugby 2018
Sunwolves vs Chiefs
Final Score: Sunwolves 10 – Chiefs 61
Referee: William Houston (Australia)
Assistant referees: Aki Aso (Japan), Tasuku Kawahara (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)
A week ago I posted my review of the Lions/Sunwolves clash at Ellis Park. The “Japanese” outfit had just run the Lions very close, losing a high scoring match by just 2 points. Despite their much improved performance against the Lions, I said: “Oh, lest I forget, the Sunwolves played well above the standard we have come to expect from them. We will be watching with interest… Are my doubts about the validity of their inclusion in Super Rugby about to be proven wrong? I do not think so.”
On the evidence of their game against the Chiefs, the Sunwolves have not made any dents in my belief that they should not be playing Super Rugby. Their game against the Lions notwithstanding, the Sunwolves are, and will always be the Walking Bonus Points of the competition.
They remain something of a sea anchor for the rest of the teams in the competition. They have a way (much like the Jaguares) of dragging you down to their level of rugby rather than stepping their own game up a notch or three, as Sanzaar keep suggesting they will eventually do.
They do have some redeeming qualities. They play the game at pace and with plenty of guts and heart, Sometimes there are brief moments, little gems, of extreme skill.
The sad reality is that they do not have anything that vaguely resembles quality in every position in the team, and the depth in the squad resembles a paddling pool for toddlers.
Losing by a 51 point margin, and ending the weekend with zero wins from 5 starts and a negative points balance of -108 does not suggest that the Sunwolves should stay in Super Rugby!
It could have been much much worse!
Yes, the Chiefs were supremely confident and in a rampant mood. But, and it must be a bit of a worry for the Chiefs coaching staff, there were plenty of problems with the Chiefs’ game.
Some of their ball retention was poor. They made 22 handling errors in a game where they had 55% of the possession. Some of their passing was loose, making 157 passes, with just 127 going to hand. Thirty passes went astray!
The Chiefs carried the ball 127 times, for a whopping 886 meters with the ball in hand. That is as good as it gets in rugby, but their finishing was not always great. Some of their decision making was inaccurate; players running the wrong supporting lines; players going away from support with the ball in hand. Wrongly angled runs, passes to the wrong player. It was not as clinical as the score line suggests.
It is easy to miss the cracks in the road when you are travelling at speed, and the Chiefs were thundering along at 90 miles an hour…………
Probably of most concern was their defence which was sloppy throughout. The Chiefs missed 24 tackles, while making just 102. One in every five tackles was missed, especially out on the fringes, where the Sunwolves made most of their 621 meters with the ball in hand. There was a lot of soft tackling out near the touchlines, with the two wings, and both McKenzies the chief infringers!
As for Damian McKenzie, I make no bones about suggesting that he is the most exciting rugby player on Planet Earth at the moment. I simply love watching him play, but one has to expect him to do some odd things from time to time. As usual, he was his unpredicatble mix of brilliant and slightly erratic. The Sunwolves simply weren’t good enough to punish his wilder moments, and they are certainly not good enough to shut him down when he is at his tricky, slippery best.
He kicked more than we have come to expect from him, and his kicking is just a little wayward, he does not always get the timing of his kicks right, and he is often a little inaccurate too. This will probably improve as he gets more time in the 10 jersey.
For the Chiefs, this was an exercise against some mobile tackle-bags. For the Sunwolves, it was another dreary afternoon at the office.
Tries: Masirewa, Saumaki
Tries: Ardron, Retallick, Harris, Alaimalo 2, D McKenzie 2, Polwart, Wainui
Cons: D McKenzie 8
Sunwolves: 15 Ryuji Noguchi, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willem Britz (c), 7 Edward Quirk, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Jiwon Koo, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Robbie Robinson, 23 William Tupou
Chiefs: 15 Marty McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu’inukaufe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Sean Wainui, 23 Bailyn Sullivan