Rugby: Sunwolves find new weapon in Carpenter

Sunwolves outside-centre Derek Carpenter believes that, with more games under his belt, he has more confidence to play better and cement his position in the Super Rugby team's starting line-up.
Sunwolves outside-centre Derek Carpenter believes that, with more games under his belt, he has more confidence to play better and cement his position in the Super Rugby team's starting line-up.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Benched at the start of the season, Kiwi has scored tries in all his last three games

The Sunwolves' Derek Carpenter has scored three tries in as many Super Rugby games.

But the New Zealander, who is hoping to add to that streak at the National Stadium when the Sunwolves face South African side Stormers tomorrow, has played down his achievements.

He said yesterday: "I've parked those behind me already. I won't say that I'm a key player.

"If fans see me as one, I can't stop them from doing so. But I'm just working hard and trying to perform my best for each match and striving to keep the standards."

The 27-year-old outside-centre, who has been based in Japan since 2014, is right to be cautious about his newfound fame.

After all, he began the season in February on the bench for the first three games. He was even left out of the squad for the subsequent two matches, including the Sunwolves' last game at Kallang on March 26.

LOOKING FORWARD NOT BACK

I've parked those behind me already.

DEREK CARPENTER, Sunwolves outside-centre, on not harping on his previous good showings.

But after he was given his first start on April 7 against the Stormers, the fringe player turned into a key try-scorer.

His scored tries in the April 15 92-17 thrashing by the Cheetahs, the 36-28 victory over the Jaguares on April 23, as well as last week's 22-40 loss to the Western Force.

A month after his first start, he is the Japanese team's joint-second try scorer, level with Shota Horie, and four behind Akihito Yamada. The trio account for more than half of the Sunwolves' total of 23 tries in the league so far.

With six games left in the season, Carpenter feels that the more he has played, the more his confidence has grown and it has helped him cement his position in the starting line-up.

He said: "With more game time, I've got more confidence when I get on to the pitch. It just grows over time."

But for Carpenter, who set up team-mate Yamada to land the first of his two tries in their match last week, it is not a competition of who finishes with the most tries.

He called Yamada a "try-scoring machine", but does not consider himself one at the moment.

The pair will be expected to deliver again tomorrow if the Sunwolves want to avenge their 19-46 loss to the same opponents last month.

Hooker Takeshi Kizu, 27, who will be given his first start tomorrow, said set-pieces will be key: "We need to supply and deliver the ball to him (Yamada).

"He's a great finisher. We need to win a quality ball and deliver to him for a try.

"It's all about having stable set-pieces. When our team (have good) set pieces, then things will go well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'Sunwolves find new weapon in Carpenter'. Print Edition | Subscribe