SINGAPORE - A victory at the Sunwolves' "second home" eluded them once again, after the Tokyo and Singapore co-based Super Rugby side fell in a 23-37 loss to South African side the Kings on Saturday (March 4) at the Singapore Sports Hub.
The hosts returned to the National Stadium searching for their first win in the Republic, after coming close to a victory thrice when they played in Kallang last year, when they lost two tight games (31-32 to the Cheetahs, 27-30 to the Bulls) and drew 17-17 with the Stormers.
The Sunwolves fielded five players in their starting line-up who each had made just one Super Rugby appearance, and coach Filo Tiatia handed debuts to scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka and fly-half Hayden Cripps.
But the Japanese team were badly missing the services of two of their key players of last season, their top try-scorer with nine tries last year, Akihito Yamada, and Samoan fly-half Tusi Pisi.
And the new-look Sunwolves' inexperience showed during the game when sloppy play gave the Kings their first try with a sprint from deep in their half, when Rudi van Rooyen put the visitors 10-0 up in the 15th minute.
While the Sunwolves reduced the deficit by responding with a try by Samoan outside-centre Timothy Lafaele in the 22nd minute, the Kings' 10-point advantage was restored in the 34th minute with a try by flanker Chris Cloete.
The Kings' lead was never under threat, as both sides took turns to score tries, with Ruan Lerm (67th min) and Malcolm Jaer (78th min) scoring for the Kings, while Kenki Fukuoka (76th min) and Takaaki Nakazuru (80th min) scored for the Sunwolves.
The loss will heap even more pressure on the Sunwolves, who are struggling to justify their inclusion in the elite Southern Hemisphere 18-club competition last year.
Last season, the Sunwolves finished bottom with one win (a 36-28 victory over fellow debutants Argentina's Jaguares last April) and one draw.