15 May 2018

Photo credit:ⒸJSRA Photo by Atsushi Kondo

Hito-Communications Sunwolves are heading to Hong Kong to take on the DHL Stormers on Saturday in the first ever Mitsubishi Estate Super Rugby match played in the city.

The Sunwolves are buoyed by their first win of the 2018 Super Rugby season and head coach Jamie Joseph is eager to get stuck into Robbie Fleck's team.

“I can't wait,” the former New Zealand and Japan international said following the Sunwolves' 63-28 win over the Reds in their last game of the year in Tokyo.

 “It was hot today and will be hotter in Hong Kong and the big men from South Africa will struggle in the heat.” 

With the monkey off their back, the Sunwolves will be looking to put together a winning streak for the first time in their three-year history.  But despite recording the biggest win in their history, and their first against Australian opposition, Joseph said the team had plenty to work on before they take on the Stormers.

“We conceded nearly 30 points and let in some soft tries,” he said following last Saturday's game at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

“We need to eradicate the soft moments, the majority of which happen in defence.”

The two sides have met four times before with the Stormers picking up big wins in Cape Town - 46-19 in Cape Town in 2016 and 52-15 in 2017.  However, things have been much tighter in the heat of Singapore with the 2016 game finishing in a 17-17 draw and the game last year ending in a 44-31 win for the South Africans.

Saturday's game at Mong Kok Stadium marks Joseph's last in charge before he takes a break to concentrate on the national side's preparations for the June tests against Italy and Georgia.  Tony Brown will act as head coach for the game against the Rebels on May 25 in Melbourne, while Scott Hansen will be in charge for the match against the Brumbies in Canberra on June 3.

"With my coaching group coaching the Sunwolves and the national team there is a clear advantage," Joseph said of his dual role.

"We can use the Super Rugby competition as a step to developing our game and developing relationships with the players. You can expect to see the same type of rugby at test match level."

That style of rugby has been seen all season, but as Brown pointed out prior to the Reds' game, the Sunwolves were only able to do it for parts of games.

“Everyone has seen us perform reasonably well for certain parts of games over the last half-a-dozen games. We just have to make sure we get closer to playing an 80-minute performance than a 50- or 60-minute performance and if we can do that we are in with a chance,” said Brown.

The Reds certainly found that out as the Sunwolves finally got their set piece working, their defence held firm and their pace proved too much for the opposition.

“Today we put everything together in the same match,” said a relieved and happy Joseph.

While some of the players will be all too familiar to Hong Kong fans, thanks to their exploits over the years in the red and white of Japan, the standout players to date have been up and coming talent.

Back-row forward Kazuki Himeno and centre Michael Little have been at the heart of the Sunwolves' effort throughout the year, Hayden Parker set all kinds of records last week with a 36-point haul against the Reds and Hosea Saumaki's hat-trick last weekend takes him to seven for the season.

The side has been led well by Yutaka Nagare and Willie Britz and with Brown in charge of the backs, Hong Kong fans will know they can expect the unexpected.

The Mitsubishi Estate Super Rugby match will be played in the 6,000-seat Mong Kok Stadium.  Uncovered general admission seating is priced from $100 for kids (aged 12 and under) to $249 for adults.

Covered seating prices are $399 for adults and $150 for kids with individual hospitality tickets, (inclusive of covered seating and free flow food and beverage throughout the match), set at HK$738. Tickets can be purchased via Ticketflap at https://www.ticketflap.com/superrugby2018