Sunwolves seeking to build off momentum of season’s first win

by Rich Freeman

Kyodo

Sunwolves head coach Jamie Joseph named his side Thursday for the first-ever Super Rugby game played in Hong Kong.

The starting XV against the Cape Town-based Stormers at Mong Kok Stadium on Saturday shows six changes from the team that hammered the Queensland Reds 63-28 last weekend in Tokyo.

“The selection is based on the game plan we want to play against the Stormers,” said Joseph, who arrived Thursday a day after the rest of the squad.

“They are slightly different from the Reds. Against the Stormers we want to kick a fair bit. It’s going to be hot and they are a very good attacking team, so we are going to use our defense to break them down in the heat so they use up a lot of energy.”

With regular No. 8 Kazuki Himeno sidelined following a wisdom tooth extraction, and co-captain Yutaka Nagare starting the game on the bench, Willie Britz leads a side looking to put together a winning streak for the first time in its history.

Britz teams up in the back row with Ed Quirk and Michael Leitch, who were at the heart of the much-improved defensive effort last weekend.

Another standout player from the game in Tokyo was Grant Hattingh, who gets a new comrade-in-arms in the second row in the shape of Sam Wykes, with Shintaro Ishihara coming in at loosehead prop to partner Shota Horie and Takuma Asahara.

Fumiaki Tanaka starts at scrumhalf in place of Nagare with Hayden Parker — the hero of last week’s win with 36 points — at flyhalf.

Michael Little and Timothy Lafaele keep their spots in the midfield, while Kenki Fukuoka is joined by Akihito Yamada and Kotaro Matsushima in the back three.

Yamada replaces Hosea Saumaki, who is out for two weeks with a rib injury, while Matsushima takes over from Semisi Masirewa, who will miss two to three weeks with a badly dislocated finger.

“With the kicking game we need good chasers and guys with good aerial skills and both Fukuoka and Yamada are very good in that area,” Joseph said.

“Matsushima has the same skill set. He is very quick, has a good kicking game and a good aerial game, and that’s what we want.”

The backup front row features a Georgian, a New Zealander and a South African in the shape of Jaba Bregvadze, Craig Millar and Hencus van Wyk.

Uwe Helu and Yoshitaka Tokunaga are the two other replacement forwards, while Nagare, Yu Tamura and Jason Emery are the reserve backs.