The first-ever match between the Sunwolves and Jaguares in Tokyo on Saturday will be a test of the teams' character, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Both sides have struggled in their first Super Rugby season. While the Sunwolves have yet to win a match, and conceded 92 points and 14 tries against the Cheetahs last weekend, it's the Jaguares who have been most disappointing.
The Argentinian franchise is filled with Test players and were tipped by many before the tournament began to reach the playoffs. When they fought back from 24-3 down to claim a 34-33 win over the Cheetahs in their opening game, the Jaguares' stocks rose even higher.
However, since then it has been a case of playing well during the initial stages of a game, before falling away in the second half. This has culminated in six losses on the bounce, against the Sharks, Chiefs, Stormers, Blues, Hurricanes and Crusaders.
The team from the Far East has had an even tougher time in Super Rugby, with the humiliating 92-17 defeat in Bloemfontein their lowest point so far. Fortunately for them, they haven't had to play New Zealand sides this season or things could have got really ugly.
Both the Sunwolves and Jaguares look fluent on attack when they get it right, but their defence has let them down, with the Sunwolves leaking 40 tries and the Jaguares 23.
Much on Saturday will depend on how they man up on defence, but also on the tactical kicking of Juan Martín Hernández and Tusi Pisi. Whichever flyhalf plays the territorial game better, will sway the result in his team's favour.
Mark Hammett has made three changes to the Sunwolves run-on XV, drafting in scrumhalf Atsushi Hiwasa, flank Yoshiya Hosoda and tighthead prop Shinnosuke Kakinaga.
There are five changes to the Jaguares team, with prop Felipe Arregui, lock Juan Cruz Guillemaín, flank Pablo Matera and wings Lucas Amorosino and Ramiro Moyano all earning starts.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting.
STATS AND FACTS
– These two competition newcomers will meet for the first time in Super Rugby with only one win between them.
– Only once in their last four matches have the Jaguares been outscored in the second half.
– The Sunwolves come into this match on the back of the third biggest loss in Super Rugby history, having conceded the joint second most points (92) in the competion.
– The Jaguares have turned the ball over more than any other side so far this season.
– Of the 14 players to have attempted 25-plus kicks at goal this season, Tusi Pisi has the best success rate (85%).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Sunwolves||Tusi Pisi (60)||Akihito Yamada (5)||Akihito Yamada (387)||Ed Quirk (63)|
|Jaguares||Nicolás Sanchéz (42)||Martín Landajo (4)||Santiago Cordero (266)||Pablo Matera (51)|
Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliani Lolohea, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Mifiposeti Paea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Eddie Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Yoshiya Hosoda, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Lucas González Amorosino, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Felipe Arregui.
Subs: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquín Paz, 23 Emiliano Boffelli.
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Noriaki Hashimoto (Japan)
TMO: Takashi Hareda (Japan)
Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo