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Sunwolves hope to prevent a mauling from Stormers

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Japanese franchise Sunwolves are still seeking their first win in their debut Super Rugby season but they can brace themselves for a mauling at the hands of the Stormers, the South African Conference leaders, on Friday evening at Newlands.

Despite their five-match winless streak, the Mark Hammett-coached Japanese have been impressive on occasions and with a little bit of luck they may have had as many as three wins – all against South African opposition (Cheetahs, Bulls and Southern Kings), earlier this season.

All in all, the Sunwolves’ last three games against South African opposition have been decided by five points or fewer.

Hammett, a former All Blacks hooker with vast Super Rugby coaching experience, is nevertheless happy with his team’s performance.

“If you had asked me before I took the role where we would be at this stage, I don’t think I would have said we would be in this position with three bonus points and two games that we probably should have won. They have exceeded expectations,” he said.

On Friday, he will be looking to unsettle a Stormers combination that boasts an untried halfback pairing of Jean-Luc du Plessis (flyhalf) and Louis Schreuder (scrumhalf).

By disrupting the Stormers halfbacks, the supply to their potentially dangerous backline could be compromised as the fiery Sunwolves defence have done well sporadically with rush defence tactics. It is a ploy that has been used to good effect by the Stormers’ opponents this season.

A glance at the records show that the Stormers haven’t quite delivered on attack and after five matches this season, have a mere 10 tries. Of these, only five have been scored by backline players. Presently, the Stormers lie third last on the list of try-scorers this season.

The Stormers, however, have far and away the best defence record with five tries conceded overall, and this is an ominous statistic for opponents. This may be the one game where the Stormers manage to balance attack and defence in equal measure.

South African fans will have an interest in the performance of Springbok centre Damian de Allende who will be playing off the bench after recovering from an injury sustained last year.

It will mark a significant stage of the match because De Allende will be joined by other substitutes like Bongi Mbonambi, JC Janse van Rensburg, Frans Malherbe (co-captain), Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr, all of whom are match-winners in their own right.

Sunwolves have selected two new starting props in Masataka Mikami and Takuma Asahara, and they’ll be joined in the pack by Argentine international Tomas Leonardi starting at No 8.

Like the Stormers, the Sunwolves have a new starting halfback pair in Yuki Yatomi and Yu Tamura, who replace Kaito Shigeno and Tusi Pisi respectively.

Teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Oli Kebble.

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Damian de Allende.

Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Mifiposeti Paea, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Tomas Leonardi, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Tim Bond, 4 Shinya Makabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (captain), 1 Masataka Mikami.

Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.

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