DURBAN – Whatever the outcome of Saturday’s Super Rugby match at Kings Park between the Sharks and Sunwolves, the match will be far from a boring affair.
The Tokyo-based team are committed to running rugby come what may, and the Sharks are in a similar frame of mind and this week are desperate to score four tries or more to win the encounter and earn a full house of points.
The Sharks go on tour next week and will be unhappy with the three points they have bagged from a possible 10.
The Sunwolves are coached this year by Jamie Joseph, the former All Black loose forward who was coach of the Highlanders when they won the Super Rugby title in 2015.
Joseph will bring a tough edge to the team that will provide much of the Japan squad that will be hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup. And don’t be surprised to see South African surnames in that squad.
SA exports are popping up in nearly all the European teams - Scotland, Ireland and France in particular - and a number are on their way to qualifying for the Brave Blossoms.
The Sunwolves are in their third season of Super Rugby and while they struggled in 2016 and 2017, they have looked an improved outfit in their two outings this season.
In their first match they pushed the Brumbies to the end and lost narrowly, 32-25, to salvage a bonus point. Last week they fielded an injury-hit squad against the Rebels, a team that is the talk of Super Rugby for their dramatic improvement, and lost heavily, 37-17 in Melbourne.
Former Lions and Cheetahs flank Willie Britz is the captain of the team and could well lead Japan at the World Cup, while three former Bulls in Lappies Labuschagne, Grant Hattingh and Gerhard van den Heever will be on show in Durban on Saturday.
Lock Wimpie van der Walt who did duty at Western Province, the Bulls and Kings before relocating to Japan in 2014 has already made his debut for Japan.
He started against Tonga last year in a game much celebrated in the Land of the rising Sun because of the winning scoreline of 39-6.
Van der Walt also featured in Japan’s famous 23-23 draw with France last year.
Sharks 33-year-old No 8 Keegan Daniel said that while his side primarily focuses on their own game, they had also taken note of the style of play of the Sunwolves.
“Japan is known for its high-tempo approach and commitment to attack, so you have to take into account that you have to defend that,” Daniel said. “But that is not going to change the way we play with ball in hand. We will not be in defensive mode on Saturday.”