With the Super Rugby quarter-finalists now decided we take a look at those teams who missed out. Next up, the Sunwolves.
The Sunwolves have a had disappointing first season in Super Rugby but there is definitely hope for the club going forward. They won one game against fellow Super Rugby debutants the Jaguares and drew one game against the Stormers.
Their win against the Jaguares though was a momentous one, as no one saw the Tokyo side toppling the Jaguares despite the Argentinean’s record. Tusi Pisi kept his players in the game throughout but the Sunwolves were able to score three tries through Yasutaka Sasakura, Derek Carpenter and Harumichi Tatekawa.
Their draw to the Stormers should be regarded as a win. They played a side with far bigger and more skilful players but beat them physically and tactically on the day. Again Pisi’s boot played the biggest role but Akihito Yamada also scored after an electric break.
Unfortunately the Sunwolves are losing head coach Mark Hammett at the end of the season as he goes back to New Zealand to become an assistant coach at the Highlanders. The Sunwolves have yet to confirm a replacement.
Hammett though believes that the Sunwolves have improved considering it is their first season in one of the toughest competitions in the world. The 92-17 loss to the Cheetahs shouldn’t be forgotten – what a defensive horrorshow that was – but nor should the positives either.
“A big part of our season was about being able to compete and for a big part of the season we did that… I think we probably had five or six games where we didn’t, but that means two thirds of our season we did, so we are pretty proud about that fact,”said Hammett.
“We had 10 days together before we got started. We had 34 players who were selected by a selection group and it was for us as a coaching group and a leadership group to pull each other together.
“One of the things we can say is that every player to a man, even the more experienced players in the group, has improved and I suppose as coaches that is what we look to achieve.”
Hopefully as Ed Quirk suggested in a recent interview with us that 2016 is the start of something special, with more wins to come next year.
Best player: Akihito Yamada has been the breakout star for the Sunwolves this season. Despite being unavailable for the final weeks of the season the flyer is still ranked second in the competition for tries scores, after he racked up nine. Yamada has shown alarming pace and a keen eye for running lines when he gets going, making him a real bright spot in a tough year.