SINGAPORE - The Sunwolves were once again reminded Saturday of the gulf that exists between Super Rugby and the Top League in a 38-17 defeat to the Sharks at Singapore National Stadium.
Three tries in the last six minutes handed the South African side its first bonus-point win of the season as it exploited the Sunwolves’ inability to play for the full 80 minutes and gave the Japanese side a lesson in how to exploit errors.
Lwazi Mvovo and Sibusiso Nkosi were the chief recipients of the Sunwolves’ generosity as they grabbed a hat trick and brace of tries, respectively, to ensure the Sharks (8-3-1) strengthen their hold on a wild-card spot for the playoffs.
“The gap between the Top League and Super Rugby is massive,” said Sunwolves head coach Filo Tiatia.
“When you make a mistake there is just a split second to react and make the transition from attack to defense and we’re not used to that intensity.”
In the second minute, Mvovo’s first try came when the Sunwolves (1-10) failed to follow up on a kick ahead and allowed Garth April to launch a counter attack from his own line.
His second in the 75th minute occurred when the Sunwolves failed to execute a kick-pass deep in their own 22 and his third came when the Sunwolves, not for the first time, struggled at the restart.
Nkosi’s two tries were also the result of errors — a simple handling miscue and an intercept — while Ruan Botha’s five-pointer came from the Sunwolves inability to defend a driving maul.
To their credit, the Sunwolves bounced back from a poor start to make it 21-17 on the hour mark thanks to tries from Takeshi Hino and Shuhei Matsuhashi, two conversions from Yu Tamura and a penalty from Jumpei Ogura.
“We showed a lot of resilience as the Sunwolves never gave up and showed a lot of composure, especially in the last four minutes when the game was in the balance,” said Sharks head coach Robert du Preez. “But we did make it difficult for ourselves as too many opportunities went begging.”
Du Preez had double reason to feel happy as his twin sons — Jean-Luc and Daniel — together with fellow back rower Philip van der Walt were outstanding, constantly putting their team on the front foot with ball in hand and knocking the Sunwolves backward when they defended.
Willie Britz once again had a standout game for the Sunwolves before he was forced from the field due to a concussion, while Fumiaki Tanaka’s quick service caused problems for the Sharks.
But an inability to constantly put the phases together ensured the Sunwolves did not make proper use of the 49 percent of possession that came their way.
“There are no excuses,” Tiatia said when asked if having to constantly change his team from week-to-week as the result of injuries and managing his player’s workload was the reason for the loss.