The spotlight has been firmly cast on Ayumu Goromaru this week in the build-up to Sunwolves’ first game in Oceania against Queensland Reds this weekend, but head coach Mark Hammett will be hoping it will be his band of Japanese men that steal the show at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
The Sunwolves have named an unchanged starting XV from the side which valiantly drew with the Stormers last weekend in Singapore, with just six Japanese players among the starters, the fewest so far this season. Including those half-a-dozen Japanese, a grand total of eight different nationalities are represented in the Sunwolves’ starting XV, including Derek Carpenter and Fijian John Stewart, both of whom have cemented their places in the team in recent weeks.
Club captain Shota Horie is on the replacements bench for the second week running, having previously started all of the Sunwolves’ Super Rugby fixtures this campaign before the Stormers clash. Fatigue and a minor ear injury has led Mark Hammett to select Takeshi Kizu in his place, a decision which yielded results in the line-out last Saturday in Singapore.
Defence was another area in which the Sunwolves notably improved against Stormers, winning an impressive eight turnovers with three of those coming inside their own 22. Liaki Moli, Andrew Durutalo and Faatiga Lemalu, the latter making 16 tackles (4 more than other SW player) all put in stellar performances at the breakdown. Decision making by the forwards at the ruck was the best it had been this season, knowing when to commit numbers.
Some key numbers from the game underline just how resilient the Sunwolves’ defence was in Singapore: