The Sunwolves will hope to get one over their fellow tournament underdogs when they host the Kings in Singapore on Saturday.
This is an important fixture for both sides as both strugglers from last year’s season will be desperate for the four points available.
The Kings are bottom of the Africa 2 Conference after a loss to the Jaguares last weekend while the Sunwolves are bottom of the Africa 1 Conference after suffering a big defeat to the Hurricanes in Tokyo.
The visitors will take solace from the fact that the Sunwolves have never beaten any South African side, and in those games they have conceded an average of 46 points across those fixtures.
The Kings shouldn’t feel too comforted by that statistic though, as historically they aren’t great when they play away from home and they have lost their last 12 away games and in those fixtures have conceded an average of 47 points.
The Sunwolves will really need to improve their defence going into the game after the Japan side missed 43 tackles and had a tackle success rate of only 68 percent in their fixture against the Hurricanes, which was the worst in the competition considering no other side dipped below a 75 percent tackle completion rate.
The Kings have a young side going into the match and their inexperience could very well be their downfall as the young men head to the other side of the world. It will be up to head coach Deon Davids and his staff to keep their charges focused on the challenge at hand rather than the glitz glamour of Singapore.
Davids indicated that his side remained wary of the Sunwolves intention to bounce back from their defeat to the Hurricanes last weekend.
“The expectation is that the Sunwolves are definitely a team that wants to bounce back from last week,” he said.
“They are a team that is full of pride.
“They will come out and play the game at a high tempo, and they have some good and exciting runners. They like to play with the ball in hand. We also expect a lot of kicks into space.
“We have also worked at ensuring that we up our performance in the scrums and lineouts because we expect a tremendous onslaught from the Sunwolves.”
The last time these teams met: The Kings picked up their first victory of the 2016 Super Rugby season when they claimed victory against the Sunwolves, winning 33-28. It was a highly competitive first half with the Kings leading 23-20 at the break after six tries being scored. Steven Sykes, Malcolm Jaer and Shane Gates crossed for the hosts, while Shota Horie, Tusi Pisi and Tim Bond all grabbed five pointers for the Sunwolves. After the break the tempo and excitement dropped substantially however as only Louis Fouche and Pisi’s penalties troubled the scoreboard, that was until two minutes from time when Elgar Watts and Akihito Yamada scored for their respective outfits as the Kings came out on top.
Players to watch: Lionel Cronje cemented himself as one of the best kickers in the first round of Super Rugby after he was successful with all six of his attempts at goal in the opening round, the most goals of any player who is yet to miss an attempt. The number 10, who is on his sixth franchise in eight years, has made himself an incredibly dynamic player and can play a variety of strategies which makes Cronje a tricky man to mark.
Former Cheetah Willie Britz meanwhile could be massive for the Sunwolves this weekend. The mobile yet physical loose forward likes to impose himself in the collision area and at ruck time. He will have played against some of the Kings before and will be raring to go against South African opposition.
Team news: The Sunwolves will enter the game with a new half back pairing as Fumiaki Tanaka and Hayden Cripps replace Keisuke Uchida and Hikaru Tamura respectively. Tanaka could be significant for the Sunwolves considering his energy with ball in hand and his experience playing for the Highlanders.
The Kings have made two changes their side with Tyler Paul replacing the injured Irne Herbst and will bind up with Mzwanele Zito. The other change is the inclusion of the electric Masixole Banda at full-back. The utility-back paid his dues at the Border Bulldogs before getting a Kings call up before the 2017 season, he could add a lot of spark to the Kings backline.
Form: The Sunwolves aren’t in the best of form after conceding a disastrous 13 tries in their 83-17 loss to the Hurricanes. The Sunwolves were completely outplayed and were fairly hopeless against the New Zealanders. The Kings also took a beating but not nearly in the same fashion. The Kings meanwhile looked competitive against the Jaguares despite their 39-26 loss. They scored two well-worked tries and kept the Argentines under pressure for large parts of the game.
2016: Kings won 33-28 in Port Elizabeth
Sunwolves: 15 Shota Emi, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shokei Kin, 6 Ed Quirk (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Heiichiro Ito, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Will Tupou, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Mzwanele Zito, 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c)
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Justin Forwood, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Chris Cloete, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Luzuko Vulindlu
Date: Saturday, March 4
Venue: Singapore National Stadium, Singapore
Kick-off: 18:55 local (10:55 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Akihisa Aso (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)