Sunwolves coach Jamie Joseph made wholesale changes to his team Thursday ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby game against the Sharks in Durban, South Africa.
The starting XV shows 11 changes to the side that lost 37-17 to the Melbourne Rebels in Tokyo last Saturday, with Michael Little set to make his Super Rugby debut at inside center and a further three debutants on the bench in props Shintaro Ishihara and Hencus van Wyk, and lock Wimpie van der Walt.
“Some of the selections have been forced on us by injury after we lost a lot of players last week,” Joseph said.
Yusuke Niwai, who missed all of the 2017-18 Top League season, returns to the side at hooker where he will pack down between Craig Millar and Takuma Asahara, who was a late call-up to the bench last week.
Grant Hattingh and Kazuki Himeno have both recovered from knocks suffered in the opening loss to the Brumbies and pair up in the second row.
“Having them back is crucial for us as they will beef up our back, which was something that was lacking last week,” Joseph said.
Michael Leitch and Willie Britz, who leads the side from No. 8, keep their places in the back row where they are joined by Yoshitaka Tokunaga, who spent 60 minutes last week in the unfamiliar role of wing after injuries had decimated the Sunwolves backline.
Behind the pack, Will Tupou on the left wing is the only player to keep his spot, with Joseph saying the Sunwolves’ defense last week was “at times not up to standard.”
Keisuke Uchida and Harumichi Tatekawa line up at halfback, Little and Sione Teaupa form a new center pairing, and Tupou is joined in the back three by Lomano Lava Lemeki and Kotaro Matsushima.
Ishihara, van Wyk and Atsushi Sakate provide cover for the front row on the bench, with van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne as the other reserve forwards.
Yutaka Nagare, Ryoto Nakamura and Robbie Robinson are the replacement backs.