Head coach: Earl Va’a
Captain: Kota Yamashita
2016-17 position: 14th
Stadium: Level Five Stadium, Fukuoka
‘Better than before’ is Coca-Cola Red Sparks’ team slogan for the 2017-18 season, justified by a disappointing 2016-17 campaign that saw them narrowly avoid relegation with a 22-17 play-off win against Hino Red Dolphins.
2016-17 was the fourth consecutive season that Coca-Cola were forced to take part in the promotion-relegation play-off, finishing in 14th place in each of those four campaigns. Consistent, at least.
New head coach (also doubling up as backs coach) Earle Va’a has brought former All Blacks and Wasps back row Ross Filipo on board as forwards coach to build upon Coca-Cola’s super work in the scrum last season that saw them boast the highest scrum success-rate in the Top League (99.2%).
Tackling was an issue for Coca-Cola last season, with no side averaging more missed tackles per game than them last term (27.8) and head coach Va’a will have addressed the issue in pre-season.
Brave Blossoms centres Timothy Lafaele and William Tupou played alongside each other for Sunwolves in Super Rugby this season, and will once again be the standout names on the teamsheet.
One to watch: Timothy Lafaele
Lafaele was one of Sunwolves' top performers in Super Rugby this season and stole the headlines with a remarkable hat-trick of tries against Blues in Tokyo. He made more carries (126), metres (583), offloads (13) and beat more defenders (46) than any other Coca-Cola player in the Top League last season