Sunwolves coach Jamie Joseph named his team Thursday for this weekend’s Super Rugby clash with the Lions at Johannesburg’s Emirates Airlines Park.
Scrumhalf Yutaka Nagare returns to the run-on XV on Saturday to lead a side that shows five changes and three positional switches from the team that started last week’s 50-22 loss to the Sharks in Durban.
“We had many opportunities in the last game with the Sharks, but we did not perform well enough to capitalize on them, and it was disappointing,” Joseph said.
“We should have scored more points when we had possession in their territory. Based on the performance of the Sharks game, we have made a few changes and have some players returning.
“For example, Hosea Saumaki showed his strength in the Brumbies game and having him back will have a positive impact on the team.”
Saumaki, who scored twice in the season opener, lines up in the back three alongside fullback Kotaro Matsushima and right wing Lomano Lava Lemeki.
William Tupou moves from the wing to outside center where he will partner with Michael Little, who impressed in his Super Rugby debut last week, with Harumichi Tatekawa partnering Nagare at halfback.
In the forwards, Craig Millar and hooker Yusuke Niwai are joined by tighthead prop Koo Ji Won in the front row, while Wimpie van der Walt is promoted from the bench and pairs up with Kazuki Himeno in the engine room.
Michael Leitch moves from flanker to No. 8, Yoshitaka Tokunaga shifts from 7 to 6 and Lappies Labuschagne returns at openside flanker.
Atsushi Sakate, Shintaro Ishihara and Hencus van Wyk form the replacement front row, with Grant Hattingh and Willie Britz the other reserve forwards.
Keisuke Uchida, Ryoto Nakamura and Ryuji Noguchi provide cover for the backs.
The sides have met twice before with the Lions winning 26-13 in Tokyo in February 2016 in the Sunwolves’ debut game. A year later the Lions — who have finished runners-up in the competition the last two years — won 94-7 in South Africa, the second biggest win ever in Super Rugby history.
“We are up against a really strong Lions team so it will be a good test for us to see where we are at in terms of preparation for the future,” Leitch said
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