Preview: Sunwolves v Stormers

Date published: March 24 2017

The Sunwolves will be hoping to get their campaign back on track when they take on the Stormers in Singapore on Saturday.

These two sides have made contrasting starts to the season with the Sunwolves winless after four matches while the Stormers won their first three fixtures.

Although they have lost all four their previous fixtures, the Sunwolves have played better as the season has progressed and were particularly impressive in their most recent losses to the Cheetahs and Bulls in South Africa.

They return to Asia having scored at least three tries in five of their last seven games at their home venue. but face a Stormers side who have won each of their last seven regular-season fixtures. Never in Super Rugby history have the Cape Town-based outfit won more in succession.

Under the guidance of head coach Filo Tiatia, the Sunwolves have scored six tries in the final quarter of their games so far this season, the same amount as they’ve scored in the opening hour and the fourth most of any team in the competition.

The Stormers players have embraced the free-flowing style of play introduced by their head coach, Robbie Fleck, and have already scored 15 tries so far this season.

One player who has benefitted from this attacking style of play is SP Marais who with 416 metres is the only player in the competition to have gained more than 400 metres this season.

Marais is 67 metres ahead of the next best player in the competition and has already crossed the whitewash on two occasions.

Despite the Sunwolves’ poor early season form, Fleck is not underestimating their hosts and feels it will be important for his side to stand together and maintain their focus for 80 minutes.

“It has been a good week of preparation for us and we are really excited to see the players in the match-day squad take this opportunit,” he said.

“We know it will be tough against the Sunwolves here in Singapore, but it is a challenge that excites us.”

The last time these teams met: The Stormers were given an almighty fright when these sides met in Singapore last year with a Brandon Thomson conversion, after a Vincent Koch try in the final minute, securing them a 17-17 draw. Akihito Yamada scored the Sunwolves’ only try and Tusi Pisi kicked four penalties. The Stormers’ other points came via a Pieter-Steph du Toit try and a conversion and a penalty from Jean-Luc du Plessis.

Players to watch: Although the Sunwolves are yet to win a game this year, one player who came out of the Bulls game last week with plenty of credit is Liaki Moli. The former Blues stalwart works tirelessly at the coalface of the Sunwolves forward effort and will be expected to get his side over the advantage line with some powerful carries and also be a source of possession at the line-outs.

The Stormers have plenty of attacking threats across the park but a player who could steal the show with ball in hand is their former South Africa Sevens flyer Seabelo Senatla. Blessed with searing pace and a good rugby brain, Senatla should liven up this clash if his inside backs can create space for him to weave his magic.

Team news: Sunwolves head coach Filo Tiatia has shuffled his backline and made three changes in the pack for this encounter. Positional switches in the backs see Jamie-Jerry Taulagi move to full-back, with Shota Emi going to the wing, and Timothy Lafaele shifitng from inside centre to outside centre to make way for the return of Derek Carpenter. Jumpei Ogura meanwhile gets a start at fly-half in place of Hayden Cripps, who drops to the replacements. Up front, Shokei Kin is named at openside flanker ahead of Shumei Matsuhashi, while Liaki Moli comes into the second-row to partner Sam Wykes instead of Uwe Helu. The final change sees Heiichiro Ito promoted from the bench to start at tighthead prop. Takuma Asahara takes his spot amongst the replacements.

Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck has made several changes to his starting XV. Dillyn Leyds will start at full-back in a new back three which will see World Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla make his first start of the season on the left wing. Dan Kriel is back from injury to partner EW Viljoen in midfield, but the half-back combination of Robert du Preez and Dewaldt Duvenage remains unchanged. In the loose trio, captain Siya Kolisi is back after being rested against the Southern Kings, with Sikhumbuzo Notshe starting at the back of the scrum. There is an all-new lock pairing as JD Schickerling makes his first appearance of the season alongside Chris van Zyl, whilst in the front-row props JC Janse van Rensburg and Wilco Louw are back in the starting line-up on either side of hooker Bongi Mbonambi. On the replacements bench, Junior Springbok Cobus Wiese will make his Super Rugby debut if he gets game-time while prop Caylib Oosthuizen is also in line to make his Stormers bow, with lock Jan de Klerk and scrum-half Godlen Masimla both getting their first opportunity of the season.

Form: The Sunwolves were on the receiving end of an 83-17 hammering when they faced the defending champions, the Hurricanes, in Tokyo in their opener. After that, they hosted the Southern Kings in Tokyo, suffering a 37-23 loss, before heading to South Africa where they delivered competitive performances in defeats to the Cheetahs (38-31) and Bulls (34-21).

The Stormers started their campaign with an impressive 37-24 triumph over their arch rivals, the Bulls, at Newlands in Round 1. They had to dig deep before claiming a 32-25 home win against the Jaguares in their next match but were in fine form in their 41-10 victory over the Kings in Port Elizabeth in Round 3 and had a bye last weekend.

Prediction: Although the Stormers are resting several first-choice players, they should have little trouble in beating their hosts. Stormers to win by 14 points.

Previous results:

2016: The teams drew 17-17 in Singapore
2016: Stormers won 46-19 in Cape Town

The teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 14 Shota Emi, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Jumpei Ogura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shokei Kin, 6 Ed Quirk (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Heiichiro Ito, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Shumei Matsuhashi, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Hayden Cripps, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka

Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 JD Shickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan du Plessis

Date: Saturday, March 25
Venue: National Stadium, Singapore
Kick-off: 18:55 local (10:55 GMT)
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant Referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Aki Aso (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)

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