The Cheetahs will be looking to end a nine-match losing streak when they travel to face the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday.
It is the Cheetahs’ longest ever losing run within a single season; the last and only time they lost more games in a row was a 12-game stretch from 2008 to 2009. They can ill-afford to lose to a Sunwolves side they have beaten on all three of the sides’ previous meetings.
Since the 92-17 drubbing last year, the Sunwolves have closed the gap between the sides. Earlier this season, they were unlucky to lose to the Cheetahs only having themselves to blame when they had prop Takuma Asahara sin-binned in which time the Cheetahs came back from 30-31 down to win 38-31.
Now might represent the greatest opportunity to claim their first victory over the Cheetahs, who are on a horrific run of form.
However, signs show that the Sunwolves may be tiring as the season draws on. They have conceded an average of 40 points per game across their last five fixtures, five points per game more than they had conceded in their five games prior.
They conceded three tries in the last five minutes as they went down 38-17 to the Sharks last weekend which raises question marks over their ability to play the full 80 minutes.
It should make for an entertaining game as both sides like to keep the ball in hand. The Cheetahs’ 15.4 kicks in general play per game this season are fewer than any other team.
If the Sunwolves win they will draw level with the Cheetahs on 11 points in Africa Conference 1, having played one game less.
The last time the teams met: The sides met earlier this season in Round Two with the Cheetahs claiming a 38-31 victory in Tokyo. The Cheetahs scored four tries through Torsten van Jaarsveld, Oupa Mohoje, Clinton Swart and Rayno Benjamin while the Sunwolves’ try column was filled by Shota Emi, Hayden Cripps and two from Kenki Fukuoka.
2017: Cheetahs won 38-31 in Tokyo
2016: Cheetahs won 92-17 in Bloemfontein
2016: Cheetahs won 38-31 in Bloemfontein
Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Shota Emi, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Malgene Ilaua, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Kotaro Yatabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Yasuo Yamaji, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Shokei Kin, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 William Tupou
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Junior Pokomela, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga
Date: Saturday, May 27
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Kick-off: 14:15 local (05:15 GMT)
Referee: Will Houston
Assistant Referees: Shuhei Kubo, Akihisa Aso
TMO: Minoru Fuji