Michael Leitch disappointed by mistakes in Sunwolves debut, but sees positive steps in team’s development

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Michael Leitch was happy to make his debut with the Sunwolves on Saturday, but it didn’t remove the frustration of the Super Rugby team’s 37-17 loss from his head.

The 29-year-old, who signed with the Sunwolves this year, was satisfied with being able to compete for the entire 80 minutes in the team’s second contest of the season against the Melbourne Rebels at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground. But he was far from content with the team’s performance.

Leitch said that Sunwolves made too many small errors, including in lineouts. He is in charge of calling codes for lineouts, but the team was not in sync and couldn’t get the ball a few times.

“It was a disappointing result for us,” Leitch, who donned a jersey of the Chiefs, a New Zealand-based Super Rugby club for four years, told reporters in Japanese after the game. “So, I was happy to play for the Sunwolves, but am frustrated with it.”

Leitch, who is a lineout code caller for the Top League’s Toshiba Brave Lupus and Japan national team, took the blame for the miscues. The New Zealand native, who became a Japanese citizen in 2013, said that he confused his teammates with his calls.

“We could not get the ball in some of those lineouts,” said Leitch, who added that he would have to call simpler lineout codes in the team’s next game. “And we could not create our rhythm. It’s on me.”

Yet Leitch did not look back for too long. He quickly shifted his mind to the Sunwolves’ upcoming games, taking advantage of the experiences he he’s had as part of the learning process. The Sunwolves travel to Durban, South Africa, to face the Sharks next Saturday.

Leith positively stated that the team absorbed valuable lessons from Saturday’s loss and would only get more competitive by taking on stronger teams in the global premier rugby union circuit going forward.

“I’m certain that this team will continue to develop as a team by playing against those tough teams,” Leitch said, when asked about the Sunwolves’ next two opponents in South Africa, the Sharks and Lions.

“We played well in our first game (in a 32-25 loss to the Brumbies last weekend), and today we did not play a good game,” he said. “We’ll play the third game away and it’s going to be tough. But we would like to come up with a good result.”

One of the major reasons Leitch joined the Sunwolves, who are guided by national team head coach Jamie Joseph, is that the Sunwolves are connected to the development of the national squad and its candidate players.

Leitch stressed that the national team players would grow and their Super Rugby experiences would eventually help the Brave Blossoms as well.

“Our players and coaches made growth today,” said Leitch, who has 53 caps for the national team and served as the Brave Blossoms captain at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. “We want to gain something even from games we lose.”