Rugby

Tony Brown shakes up lineup before Sunwolves’ season finale

Kyodo

Sunwolves stand-in head coach Tony Brown made five changes and two positional switches Wednesday as his side gets set for its final Super Rugby game of the 2018 season when it takes take on the Reds on Friday at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

“We want to make sure we finish with a really strong performance and put in a massive effort for each other,” said Brown, who is in charge while Jamie Joseph recovers from back surgery.

The Sunwolves are 3-12.

Willie Britz will lead the side in one of three changes in the pack, with the South African-born back-row forward coming in at No. 8 for Kazuki Himeno. Wimpie van der Walt replaces Grant Hattingh, who has a broken toe, at lock and Yusuke Niwai replaces Jaba Bregvadze at hooker.

Craig Millar and Takuma Asahara pack down either side of Niwai and James Moore partners with van der Walt, while Britz joins up with Michael Leitch and Ed Quirk at the back of the scrum.

In the backs, Jason Emery moves to fullback and Michael Little goes from 12 to 13 to allow for the return of Harumichi Tatekawa at inside center.

Yoshikazu Fujita, meanwhile, comes straight into the side to make his Super Rugby debut in place of the suspended Semisi Masirewa on the right wing.

“It was a big surprise but a great opportunity,” Fujita said of his call-up.

Yutaka Nagare and Hayden Parker remain at scrumhalf and flyhalf, respectively, while Akihito Yamada — named to the Team of the Week for Round 17 following his two tries against the Waratahs — keeps the No. 11 jersey.

Bregvadze, Keita Inagaki and Hencus van Wyk provide the front-row cover, with Himeno and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco filling the two other reserve forwards.

Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda and Ryoto Nakamura remain the back-up backs.

The two teams — neither of which can advance to the playoffs — last met on May 12 in Tokyo in Week 13 with the Sunwolves winning 63-28, their first and only win over Australian opposition to date.

“Getting our first away win, that’s the box we want to tick,” said Britz, following wins this season in Tokyo and their homes-away-from-home, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Reds include former Toyota Verblitz prop Ruan Smith in their match-day 23 but a knee injury means there is no place for George Smith in what was billed as his final Super Rugby game.

The former Suntory Sungoliath favorite, who turns 38 on Saturday, moves to England in the summer to take up a six-month contract with Bristol Bears.