Hammett: Sunwolves have outperformed

Sunwolves players surrounding Western Force's Guy Millar in their 40-22 loss on Saturday. Coach Mark Hammett insists that his side have improved throughout their maiden Super Rugby season.
Sunwolves players surrounding Western Force's Guy Millar in their 40-22 loss on Saturday. Coach Mark Hammett insists that his side have improved throughout their maiden Super Rugby season. PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite having won just one out of nine matches so far, Sunwolves head coach Mark Hammett believes that his team have exceeded expectations in their first Super Rugby season.

The Kiwi said yesterday in a phone interview: "I think from where we've started in expectations, we're probably exceeded those.

"I know this probably sounds strange, but you're talking about a team who is written off to lose every game by 70 plus points at the beginning."

The Sunwolves finally ended their seven-match winless streak on April 23, when the Japanese franchise defeated fellow league debutants Jaguares 36-28 for their first-ever Super Rugby victory.

With six games left in the season, the Sunwolves take on the Stormers on Saturday for their final match at the National Stadium.

While a win is a tall order for Hammett's players - they lost 19-46 to the South African side when both teams met last month - he reiterated that the focus was not on results but on the improvements made by the team.

Said the 43-year-old tactician: "The scrums have improved. While it has improved, it doesn't mean we are at the point when we are dominating. But we seem to be holding our own.

"When we hold the ball for a long time, we would make the best defence look average."

The Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck, 40, pointed out that there were teams who had finished their seasons without a single win.

For example, the Lions lost all 13 matches in 2010 and the Bulls suffered 11 defeats without any win in 2002.

Hence, Fleck felt that the Sunwolves' performances have been commendable so far.

He said: "Any team that joins (Super Rugby) at a late stage, it is going to be a tough introduction for them. It is the toughest competition in world rugby.

"They've have had a fantastic season (so far). They've already got a win, so that's a massive achievement in itself. And I've seen massive growth in the way they play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'Hammett: Sunwolves have outperformed'. Print Edition | Subscribe