Preview: Sunwolves v Cheetahs

‘Chelsea don’t need to make a statement’ – Kante

There is always a happy ending when two winless teams meet in Super Rugby, as is the case on Saturday when the Sunwolves host the Cheetahs.

The firsts don’t end there, as it will also be the first ever Super Rugby match played in Singapore under the closed roof of the National Stadium, arguably one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world.

The old cliche of defence winning games has never rang more true, as both teams have been poor in this regard. The Cheetahs have missed 30 tackles in their two fixtures, the most of all the Super Rugby teams.

While the Sunwolves rallied to make 109 tackles against the relentless Lions in their first match, a team at Super Rugby level cannot miss 26 tackles and expect to win a game. Line-outs will also be a concern for the hosts, as they only managed to win 57% of them in week one. 

Both teams’ willingness to let the ball do the work means we could be in or a pulsating affair, one that could play into the hands of the counter-attacking visitors more so than the Sunwolves. 

Players to watch: For the Sunwolves, fly-half Tusi Pisi was a star distributor against the Lions, physical on defence and accurate off the kicking tee. Winger Harumichi Tatekawa was also superb in the opening game, beating three defenders in his 12 carries.

Meanwhile, Cheetahs captain Francois Venter has played every minute of the campaign so far and scored a try in each game. With 26 carries and 17 tackles so far, he has been one of their standout performers. With the Sunwolves yet to dominate at line-out time, lock Francois Uys skill in the air could help the Cheetahs poach some ball. 

Team news: The Asian franchise have retained the same starting XV as two weeks ago, but coach Mark Hammett has brought in Mifiposeti Peaa and Takuma Asahara as replacements on the bench.

Meanwhile, Springbok lock Lood de Jager is a huge loss for the Cheetahs pack. He is replaced by former captain Uys. Fly-half Fred Zeilinga takes a spot on the bench and Niell Marais steps into the number 10 position.

Form: The Sunwolves opened their super rugby campaign against the Lions with a loss in Tokyo and then went straight into a bye, so they will be more rested than their well-traveled counterparts. The new franchise can take some positives away from the first fixture, where they impressed with ball in hand playing high tempo rugby.

The Cheetahs have suffered back-to-back losses at home to Super Rugby newcomers Jaguares and then the Stormers last week, putting a major dent in their campaign hopes. While they they have shown a willingness to run with the ball, their defence and discipline have let them down in key moments.

Prediction: Whichever team improves the most in defence will win this game. The Cheetahs will be hurting after their two losses and we expect them to bounce back in style with a nine point victory.

Previous results:

This is the first time the two teams will meet.

The teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Edward Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Hitoshi Ono, 4 Timothy Vond, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keith Inagaki.
Replacements: 16.Takeshi Kizu,17. Masataka Mikami,18. Takuma Asahara , 19.Shinya Makabe, 20.Yoshiya Hosoda, 21, Kaito Shigeno, 22 Derek Carpenter, 23. Mifiposeti Paea

Cheetahs: 15 Sias Ebersohn, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Boom Prinsloo, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga

Date: Saturday, March 12
Venue: National Stadium, Singapore
Kick-off: 18:45 local, (10:45 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Shuhei Kubo, Aki Aso
TMO: Takashi Hareda