A third victory in a row for the Waratahs is surely forthcoming when they take on the Sunwolves in Super Rugby Round Eight on Saturday.
The Japanese outfit have once again struggled to compete with the best the southern hemisphere have to offer, going down to five successive defeats. While they have been competitive in two matches, most notably against the Lions, they simply don’t have the resources to challenge.
In Jamie Joseph they have an astute coach, someone who took the Highlanders to the title in 2015, but the New Zealander has yet to find the right formula. Mass changes have generally been the order of the day week in week out for the boss as he searches for a team that can do the job required, but he has yet to find it.
That disappointing run appears set to continue on Saturday with their opponents looking much improved this season after an awful 2017. In fact, should the ‘Tahs emerge triumphant in Tokyo this weekend then they would equal their tally of wins from the previous campaign.
Few would bet against either. At times the Sydney-based team have thrilled in attack, putting 34 points on the Sharks and 51 on league leaders Rebels, while they were better defensively at the Brumbies.
Daryl Gibson’s men have a good mix in the backline, with Taqele Naiyaravoro and Curtis Rona producing the power and Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale providing the dexterity, but they are also strong up front. Captain Michael Hooper has begun the year in excellent fashion at openside and the front-five is very solid.
It should therefore be a comfortable afternoon for the visitors. The Sunwolves’ defence has been shambolic and their form versus Australian Super Rugby sides is woeful, having failed to beat them in seven attempts.
In those matches, they have conceded an average of 43 points and Saturday may just see another thrashing, this time at the hands of the Waratahs.
Team news: Sunwolves head coach Jamie Joseph has once against made several changes to his side, with Kotaro Matsushima, Lomano Lemeki and Yutaka Nagare all coming into the backline.
They replace Ryuji Noguchi, Hosea Saumaki and Fumiaki Tanaka respectively, while Craig Millar and Jiwon Koo start at prop instead of Keita Inagaki and Hencus van Wyk.
James Moore and Sam Wykes form a new lock pairing while there’s also a completed altered back-row with Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Lappies Labuschagne and Kazuki Himeno replacing Michael Leitch, Ed Quirk and Willem Britz.
For the Waratahs, boss Daryl Gibson has brought in Will Miller onto the flank, replacing Michael Wells, who moved to number eight instead of Jed Holloway.
In the backs, Israel Folau’s injury means that Alex Newsome starts on the right wing after impressing off the bench against the Brumbies. Folau’s absence also allows Cameron Clark to return to the squad after being named among the replacements.
Gibson said: “Will’s selection gives us the opportunity to play two genuine fetchers because we expect the game to be played at a high intensity. He has been an excellent Shute Shield player and we believe that working in tandem with (Michael) Hooper will offer us something different. “I have been pleased with Alex’s progress. He has an outstanding attitude and this is an opportunity for him.”
2016: Waratahs won 57-12 in Tokyo
Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Lomano Lemeki, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare (c), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 James Moore, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Nikoloz Khatiashvili, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Ed Quirk, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Hosea Saumaki
Waratahs: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Mitchell Short, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Cameron Clark
Date: Saturday, April 7
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14:15 local (05:15 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubol (Japan), Tasuku Kawahara (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)