Super Rugby Match Preview
Saturday 24th February, 2018
Sunwolves vs Brumbies
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kickoff: 18h15 Local Time, 04h15 GMT, 06h15 SA Time
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)
This is Super Rugby! Really Super, Super Rugby!
Every weekend throws up at least one game that is not worth waiting up for. It is not worth the cost of the electricity consumed by your television set to watch the competition’s token Japanese cannon fodder team play a game of “Super” rugby.
Do not get me wrong, I am all for the development of rugby in Japan, but the Sunwolves are simply not the answer! Two seasons of less than mediocre rugby should have been enough. They are a team of foreigners playing under a Japanese flag, a veritable Foreign Legion, with a couple of local sergeants and corporals for colour. Even the captain is a token appointment, everyone knows the real leadership is coming from one of the hired guns.
Just as the French Foreign Legion does not encourage young Frenchmen to become soldiers, so too the Sunwolves are not encouraging young Japanese to play rugby. If the intention was to teach youngsters the game, to nurture and develop the game in Japan, why are there not more young Japanese born players in the squad?
There has to be a better solution to the need, the desire, to grow the game of rugby in Japan. If a team is going to be cannon fodder week in and week out, then there is no attraction for youngsters to get involved, and even the fans start to stay away. Perhaps Super Rugby really needs that suggested Second Tier competition?
Enough of my ranting about the Sunwolves.
The Brumbies have announced a fairly powerful line-up for this first game of the season.
The tight five have a familiar feel, with Ben Alexander and Allan Alaalatoa packing down either side of hooker Josh Mann-Rea. New signing, Richie Arnold, and Sam Carter make up the second row. The loose trio is unfamiliar, with debutants Isi Naisarani at 8, and Rob Valetini on one flank. Tom Cusack gets his first start on the other flank, though he has had a couple of run-on caps in the past.
A total of four players make their Brumbies debut in the starting XV, being Richie Arnold, Rob Valetini, Isi Naisarani and Chance Peni.
Christian Lealiifano will captain the team from the flyhalf berth, with Joe Powell at scrumhalf.
Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani are in the midfield with Henry Speight and new-boy Peni are on the wings with Tom Banks at the back.
New scrumhalf Matt Lucas is named amongst the reserves on the bench with Lachlan McCaffrey. Robbie Abel, Faalelei Sione, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Rory Arnold, Wharenui Hawera, and Lausii Taliauli complete the bench.
The Sunwolves have seven debutants in their match-day 23 to take on the Brumbies.
Yep, that is 7 new faces.
New Zealand duo Jason Emery and Robbie Robinson start at full-back and fly-half respectively, while South African Grant Hattingh packs down in the second row, whilst his countrymen, Lappies Labuschagne and Willie Britz are in the loose trio.
In total, there are 16 foreign-born players in the Sunwolves’ match-day squad, nine in the run-on team and seven on the bench.
There is simply not much that I can say about the Sunwolves. They are an unknown team, with a host of changes to their player line-up, and thus no track record as a team.
We have no idea what kind of rugby they will play, what their game plans will be, and whether they have the resources to be competitive for the full length of the competition.
Yes, they are likely to win the odd game, this is rugby and stuff happens. But they have no chance of making the playoffs and no chance of sustaining any worthwhile challenge through the season.
The Brumbies must be looking forward to this game as a chance to bed down some of the combinations, oil some gears and get everything moving in the same direction.
The Brumbies, by lots.
Sunwolves – 15 Jason Emery, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Yutaka Nagare (c), 8 Willem Britz, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Kazuki Himeno, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Ho Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Edward Quirk, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Sione Teaupa.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Lausii Taliauli.