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The Sunwolves team to take on the Bulls on Friday night in Pretoria shows three changes to the side that narrowly lost to the Cheetahs last week.

Sam Wykes starts at lock with Liaki Moli dropping to the bench, and Timothy Lafaele is handed the No. 12 jersey in place of Derek Carpenter, who drops out of the match-day 23. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi replaces the in-form William Tupou, who is set to miss at least a week with a calf injury.

“Willy had a minor injury that saw him leave the field against the Cheetahs. He has done a great job for the team but with the short turnaround this week it was best to rest him,” said head coach Filo Tiatia.

“Taulagi has taken every opportunity presented, and this will be another for him to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.”

Last week’s 38-31 loss in Bloemfontein saw the Sunwolves score four tries and Tiatia said he expected an even better performance this week at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

“The team performance against the Cheetahs was another great improvement for the group. We have been trying to get better every week and Saturday’s game was a good indicator of that,” he said.

“We have had to focus on getting the guys ready quickly and the players are genuinely excited. You never forget a game at Loftus against the Bulls and this week will be no exception.”

Rio Olympian Yoshitaka Tokunaga is included in the squad and will win his first Super Rugby cap if he comes off the bench.

“I am so excited to be selected in the squad for the fourth round of the Super Rugby competition. I will do my best to contribute to the team, leveraging my strength,” the back-row forward said.

Ryohei Yamanaka is also included among the reserves, having flown out from Japan to rejoin the squad this week to replace Tupou.

“All South African teams, including the Bulls, have huge players and are physically very strong,” he said. “I will confront them with pride and guts. Courage and momentum will push us to victory.”

Starting XV:

Koki Yamamoto, Yusuke Niwai, Yasuo Yamaji, Sam Wykes, Uwe Helu, Ed Quirk, Shuhei Matsuhashi, Willie Britz, Keisuke Uchida, Hayden Cripps, Kenki Fukuoka, Timothy Lafaele, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Takaaki Nakazuru, Shota Emi.

Bench:

Atsushi Sakate, Masataka Mikami, Heiichiro Ito, Liaki Moli, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Kaito Shigeno, Jumpei Ogura, Ryohei Yamanaka.

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