Rugby: Japan not taking Super Rugby seriously; former Springboks coach Nick Mallett

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Japan are not taking Super Rugby seriously, says TV analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett after the Tokyo-based Sunwolves were humiliated 94-7 by Golden Lions at the weekend.

The Johannesburg side equalled the competition try-scoring record for one team in a single match by running in 14 for the second biggest Super Rugby winning margin.

Sunwolves were trailing by 59 points during the second half at Ellis Park stadium when Tonga-born substitute forward Uwe Helu scored the lone try for the Japanese side.

The most humiliating defeat by the two-year-old franchise angered Mallett, one of the most outspoken voices on rugby in South Africa.

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"Japanese rugby officials are not taking the Super Rugby competition seriously," he said on Johannesburg-based SuperSport TV.

"Unless officials in that country change course, there are going to be a lot more heavy defeats in the future, some even heavier than the one this weekend.

"Sunwolves were introduced to Super Rugby so that a strong Japanese national team could be built as they prepare to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

"But many of the best Japanese rugby players are turning out for company-owned clubs in the country and not for the Sunwolves.

"The best Japanese players have to play for the Sunwolves, otherwise they are going to be embarrassed many more times.

"In the match against the Lions they missed 53 tackles - you cannot compete successfully in Super Rugby with that sort of statistic," warned Mallett.

"The Sunwolves defence was non-existent and they were continually smashed in the scrums," said the man who guided South Africa to third place at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

"Had it been a boxing match, the white towel would have been flung into the ring by half-time."

Another SuperSport analyst, 2007 Springboks World Cup-winning fly-half Butch James, was equally critical of the Sunwolves.

"The one thing supporters of any rugby team expect is commitment and effort - we saw neither from the Sunwolves at Ellis Park."

South Africa-born Sunwolves skipper and loose forward Willie Britz - one of three non-Japanese starters against the Lions - was blunt after the thrashing.

"If you do not keep the ball and make your tackles, you are going to be in big trouble, especially against a team as strong as the Lions.

Sunwolves play Western Stormers in Cape Town next Saturday and complete their season the following weekend by hosting the Auckland Blues from New Zealand.

The Tokyo outfit, which plays some of its home ties in Singapore's National Stadium, have played 28 Super Rugby matches since debuting last year, winning two, drawing one, losing 25, scoring 545 points and conceding 1,225.

Both victories came in Japan, against the Argentine Jaguares last season and the South African Northern Bulls this year.