Rugby: Sunwolves need time to catch up

Sports Hub CEO Manu Sawhney and Singapore Rugby Union chief Low Teo Ping both see potential in the Sunwolves, who play their home games in Japan and Singapore, to improve on their Super Rugby record of just a win and a draw all season.
Sports Hub CEO Manu Sawhney and Singapore Rugby Union chief Low Teo Ping both see potential in the Sunwolves, who play their home games in Japan and Singapore, to improve on their Super Rugby record of just a win and a draw all season.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIN

S'pore rugby chief says bottom team can be competitive in Super Rugby after one more season

Amid calls for the Sunwolves to be dumped from Super Rugby , Singapore Sports Hub chief executive officer Manu Sawhney and Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping yesterday defended the franchise's inclusion in the 18-team competition.

The Sunwolves, co-based in Singapore and Japan, finished last in their debut season last year, recording just one win in 15 games.

Sawhney said: "Whenever there are new franchises launched, we need to give them time to stabilise and settle in. The games the Sunwolves played last year in Singapore were pretty exciting, and they came close to winning a couple of times."

Low added: "Some of the criticism is unfair. (Super Rugby organisers) Sanzaar are committed to spreading (the league) out to other parts of the world like Argentina and Japan. The Sunwolves are rejuvenated and they have a new coach. Give them another season and they will be as good as some of the other Super Rugby teams."

For now though, the Sunwolves continue to struggle. They suffered an 83-17 thumping by defending champions Wellington Hurricanes in the opening round of this season last week.

TIME TO SETTLE

The Sunwolves are rejuvenated and they have a new coach. Give them another season and they will be as good as some of the other Super Rugby teams.

LOW TEO PING, Singapore Rugby Union president, defending the Sunwolves' Super Rugby exploits.

This latest thrashing has heaved more pressure on the team, following suggestions that poorly performing franchises could be axed in order to make Super Rugby more competitive.

On Saturday, the Sunwolves would be relieved to return to the Singapore Sports Hub, where their results were less embarrassing. Of the three matches they hosted here last season, they lost two tight games (31-32 to the Cheetahs, 27-30 to the Bulls) and drew 17-17 with the Stormers.

They will take on the Kings in the first of three Super Rugby matches to be held at the National Stadium. They will then face the Stormers on March 25, followed by the Sharks on May 20.

The HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens will also be held at the same iconic Kallang venue from April 15-16.

The Sports Hub is confident that for this year, it can surpass last year's overall turnout of more than 75,000 for the rugby season.

Last year, the three Super Rugby matches drew a combined 25,128 spectators while the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens attracted about 50,000 fans.

Sawhney said: "The Sunwolves were able to win the hearts of a lot of fans in Singapore as the games were tight. The challenge is to build on last season and grow it further.

"We'll see many repeat fans coming and we want them to enjoy the festive spirit and have a more interactive experience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Sunwolves need time to catch up'. Print Edition | Subscribe