Bulls won't take Sunwolves lightly in Super Rugby

Mitch Inman (centre) of Australia's Rebels is tackled by Yu Tamura (left) and Shota Horie (right) of Japan's Sunwolves.
Mitch Inman (centre) of Australia's Rebels is tackled by Yu Tamura (left) and Shota Horie (right) of Japan's Sunwolves.PHOTO: EPA

South African side aware of threat posed by Japanese team, despite rookies' winless start

Even though the Sunwolves have lost all three of their Super Rugby matches so far, the Japanese franchise has done enough to impress the Bulls from South Africa.

The Sunwolves, the first Asian franchise, joined the league this season but have so far lost to the Lions (13-26), the Cheetahs (31-32) and the Rebels (9-35) last week.

But the Bulls are aware that a fourth consecutive Sunwolves loss is not guaranteed when they face each other at the National Stadium tomorrow.

Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss monitored the Sunwolves' last game in Kallang two weeks ago, the Japanese side's best performance so far. It was also the match that they came closest to winning, leading by 18 points at one stage.

The 30-year-old hooker noted: "They showed in their last three games, especially against the Cheetahs, a side that we also respect, that they can play at this level, that they are good enough to play in Super Rugby.

"We have analysed them, we've seen that they are dangerous. They are energetic, they play with a lot of passion.

"The moment they get the quick ball, they are dangerous in attack. They thrive on quick balls. We've got to neutralise them."

"First possessions - scrums and line-outs - are going to be important for us."

The Sunwolves are known to trouble opponents with their low chop tackles - a style which South African sides are not used to - and by utilising the full width of the field.

Said scrum-half Rudy Paige, who made his debut for the Springboks at the World Cup last year: "They disrupt you. They play a quick-tempo game. For us it's (important) to try to not get sucked into playing a negative type of game and also not to allow them to play their game, to starve them of the ball."

Added fellow Springbok Jesse Kriel, 22: "They bring another threat and intensity to the game. On attack, they go low and it could be something we're not used to dealing with."

While the Bulls are three-time Super Rugby champions (2007, 2009, 2010), they have lost their invincibility in recent years, finishing ninth in the past two seasons.

The Pretoria-based side have had a mediocre start to this season, with a win, a loss and a draw.

They were fortunate to escape with a 16-16 draw with the Sharks last week, when their opponents missed a last-gasp penalty kick.

Said Kriel: "The games (in Super Rugby) are usually close. But we've worked on our all-round game and are working towards a perfect game."

SUNWOLVES V BULLS
Singtel TV Ch120 & StarHub Ch217, tomorrow, 6.50pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Bulls not taking the Sunwolves lightly'. Print Edition | Subscribe