Rugby: Fukuoka is sure Sunwolves will eventually be a success

Sunwolves wing Kenki Fukuoka (front) being tackled by Jaguares centre Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias during their Super Rugby match last Sunday. The Sunwolves lost 39-46 despite scoring five tries.
Sunwolves wing Kenki Fukuoka (front) being tackled by Jaguares centre Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias during their Super Rugby match last Sunday. The Sunwolves lost 39-46 despite scoring five tries. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It has been another chastening Super Rugby season for the Sunwolves, with just a solitary win after 10 games, but morale within the team remains as strong as ever.

Winger Kenki Fukuoka is convinced his team, despite criticism from several fronts on their suitability at this level, will eventually become a successful Super Rugby franchise.

The 24-year-old is the side's second-highest scorer with 20 points, behind stand off Hayden Cripps (29 points). The Japanese told The Straits Times in an email interview earlier this week: "The team are still relatively young and we are all adjusting and trying to overcome the challenges we face - for example, the long distance travelling for some of our matches.

"We will also continue to train hard, develop and improve as a team, and work hard to overcome the challenges with confidence."

The Sunwolves, co-based in Japan and Singapore, finished bottom in their debut campaign last year with 13 losses, one win and one draw. Their sole success this term came last month in a 21-20 win over the Bulls from South Africa.

They face another South African side, the Sharks, next Saturday in their third and final match at the National Stadium.


Sunwolves wing Kenki Fukuoka (front) being tackled by Jaguares centre Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias during their Super Rugby match last Sunday. The Sunwolves lost 39-46 despite scoring five tries. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

While the Sunwolves have yet to record a win in five previous games in Singapore, the margins have been fine. They held a half-time lead against the Stormers but were eventually overrun in their last match in Singapore on March 25.

Fukuoka said lessons have been learnt and he and his team-mates are eager to redeem themselves. He added: "Although we lost a couple of games we should have won, including the game against the Stormers which we had a good chance to win, we learnt from the experience and realise that we just need to keep doing what we have to do until the final whistle is blown."

Last Sunday's narrow loss to the Jaguares of Argentina, in which the Sunwolves scored five tries but lost 39-46, offered hope for the future.

Fukuoka said: "Every match that we have played is a learning opportunity for us to further develop and grow as a team. Aside from developing mentally and physically, we are also continuously working to improve our defence structure, and we hope to establish a winning culture among the team."

•Tickets for the May 20 Sunwolves-Sharks match can be purchased at sportshubtix.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Fukuoka is sure Sunwolves will eventually be a success'. Print Edition | Subscribe