Sunwolves No 8 Ed Quirk and winger Akihito Yamada will pose the biggest threat to the Brumbies' defence in Canberra on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
While the Brumbies' form has nosedived in recent weeks, with heavy defeats to the Stormers, Crusaders and Highlanders, several key individuals, including David Pocock, Scott Fardy and Sam Carter, have maintained their performance levels.
The same applies to the Sunwolves. They have had a tough introduction to Super Rugby with one win, one draw and nine losses, but a number of individuals have caught the eye, with Quirk, a former Reds player, having done particularly well.
The 24-year-old Australian is a constant menace on the ground, making 13 turnovers to date. He will have Pocock to contend with at the breakdowns this weekend in what should be a feisty contest. The Brumbies forwards have been steadfast in their approach at the lineouts, scrums and driving mauls and it will take a mammoth effort from Quirk and co to disrupt them.
Backline play is where the Sunwolves hold sway. According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Sunwolves have made 1,017 more running metres than the Brumbies, 24 more clean breaks, beaten 19 more defenders and made 13 more offloads. The Brumbies backs, without the injured Joe Tomane, look out of sync on attack. And while this fixture provides them with an opportunity to make a mark, they should be wary of the Sunwolves, who thrive in open, loose contests and on the counter-attack.
The Brumbies should win their first meeting with the Japan franchise, but they will have to negate the attacking threats of Quirk and Yamada to ensure it's a comprehensive one.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Brumbies have won only one of their last four games against teams from outside Australia, though they'll be looking for consecutive victories against non-Australian teams for the first time since May 2015 after a 23-6 win over the Bulls in round 11.
– The Sunwolves have won once and drawn once in their last four Super Rugby fixtures, but they are winless in three games against Australian opposition.
– In none of the Brumbies' last 17 games has either team won after trailing at half-time, though the Brumbies won against the Waratahs in round two this season after being level at the break.
– Akihito Yamada has made 20 clean breaks so far this season; only the injured Joe Tomane (23) has made more than the Japan winger, who is also the joint top scorer in the competition with eight tries.
– David Pocock has won 21 turnovers so far this season, the most of any player and eight more than Sunwolves pair Andrew Durutalo and Ed Quirk, who have each won 13.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Brumbies||Christian Leali'ifano (108)||Joe Tomane (6)||Joe Tomane (483)||David Pocock (85)|
|Sunwolves||Tusi Pisi (105)||Akihito Yamada (8)||Riaan Viljoen (636)||Ed Quirk (103)|
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 James Dargaville/Robbie Coleman, 11 Lausii Taliauli, 10 Christian Leali'ifano, 9 Michael Dowsett, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan-Henry Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Jordan Jackson-Hope.
Sunwolves – 15 Yasutaka Sasakura, 14 Mifiposeti Paea, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Duisuke Inoue, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Riaan Viljoen.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images