SINGAPORE – Sunwolves stand-in head coach Tony Brown named his side Thursday for Saturday’s clash with the Bulls at Singapore National Stadium as Super Rugby resumes following the June tests.
Willie Britz leads a side that includes 11 members of the Japan squad that split the two-match series with Italy before beating Georgia last weekend in Aichi Prefecture.
“We’ve selected a really competitive side with a lot of exciting backs,” said Brown, who will head the team for the Sunwolves’ final three games of the season after Jamie Joseph returned to New Zealand to have surgery on a troublesome back.
“Jamie has a massive impact on the team,” Britz said. “He’s an amazing coach and we all know he brings the edge to the team. So our focus has been getting that edge without him here.”
Britz lines up in the back row long with specialist open-side flanker Shunsuke Nunomaki and Yoshitaka Tokunaga, who dons the No. 8 jersey.
Uwe Helu has recovered from the concussion he suffered in the second test with Italy and lines up in the second row with James Moore.
Craig Millar and Takuma Asahara pack down either side of Jaba Bregvadze, who lined up against many of his Sunwolves teammates as part of the Lelos squad last week.
Behind the scrum, Keisuke Uchida gets some game time — having missed out the last few weeks for Japan — and partners with Hayden Parker at halfback.
Michael Little and Jason Emery form an exciting midfield partnership with Akihito Yamada, Semisi Masirewa and Gerhard van den Heever making up the back three.
Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara and Hencus van Wyk provide the front-row cover, with Grant Hattingh and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco the two other reserve forwards.
Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda and Ryoto Nakamura are the reserve backs.
“It’s obviously going to be hot and humid and physically draining, so we are going to use that to our advantage and play the game fast and move the big Bulls side around,” Brown said.
The two sides have met four times before, with the Sunwolves winning the last encounter 21-20 in Tokyo in April 2017.
In their first game in March 2016 in Singapore, the Bulls triumphed 30-27. The two games in Pretoria saw the home side win 50-3 in July 2016 and 34-21 in March 2017.
“It’s home field advantage for us, but it is always tough playing against the Bulls,” Britz said.
“It’s great having the Japan players back on board. They had a great test series so we have to work hard for them and the whole team.”