Sunwolves don't fear another tough Super Rugby season ahead
Another tough Super Rugby season lies ahead but Sunwolves have no fear
This much is clear, it is not going to be pretty.
The HITO-Communications Sunwolves managed a solitary victory in 15 games in their maiden Super Rugby season earlier this year and 2017 is set to be another year of bloody battles for the Japanese side.
The Sunwolves, who will play three home games in Singapore next year, have one year of Super Rugby experience under their belts, but newly appointed head coach Filo Tiatia warned that there is still a long way to go.
Tiatia made the step up from assistant, after this year's head coach Mark Hammett left the team.
"We faced a lot of adversity last season and we are going to have to do that again," said the 45-year-old, speaking at the Sunwolves' unveiling of their playing roster and kit for next season.
"We're not going to be perfect, we're going to make mistakes."
The Sunwolves will be starting - like they did last year - with their backs against the wall.
Because of the schedule of Japanese domestic rugby, Tiatia will have only two weeks to prepare his charges before they kick off their season against defending champions, New Zealand's Hurricanes.
And it will get tougher as the season progresses.
Unless you stay positive, you won’t generate anything. That’s the culture we had inside our team last year and we would like to maintain that for this year as well.Sunwolves hooker Shota Horie
Of all the 18 teams in the tournament, the Sunwolves have the toughest travel schedule, playing only four games in Tokyo and having to fly close to 130,000 kilometres around the world.
But Tiatia is not approaching the season with fear.
On the contrary, he is excited about the challenges that lie ahead and has a plan in place to manage the issues.
"We've learnt many lessons (from last season) and we're still learning," he said, pointing to ideas on how to have team meetings while on the road and even assembling a bigger squad to help cope with fatigue and injuries.
Indeed, Tiatia is buoyed by the squad the Sunwolves have managed to put together so far.
At the start of the 2015 season, only six players have had prior Super Rugby experience but, after their maiden year in the tournament, the Sunwolves boast 21 players in their current 36-man squad who understand the intensity required at this level.
"What is really exciting is that we have 21 players who have experienced Super Rugby," he said, pointing to the likes Ed Quirk, Miyaki Mori and Willem Britz.
"With these players, we are really excited to get started."
While that experience is a step forward, with more players to be signed in the weeks to come, the Sunwolves are aware that some experience does not mean that they will cruise.
"We've got to rise to the challenge of having only one year of experience compared to the 22 years that teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have," said Tiatia.
Tiatia has installed the phrase "Rise as One" as the Sunwolves motto for 2017. And they intend to live up to that.
"We've got to raise standards, instil better culture, raise our performances and, importantly, we want to keep improving as an organisation and a team," he said.
"One thing I can promise you is that we will prepare the best we can every week."
Tickets for the 2017 Super Rugby season will go on sale from 10am today.
During the early bird period which lasts till Dec 31, fans can purchase three Category One tickets for the price of two.
There is also a 15 per cent discount for single-match Category One tickets purchased during the promotional period.
Tickets are priced from $30 onwards and will be available via www.sportshub.com.sg/sportshubtix, 3158 7888 (contact number), Sports Hub Tix Box Office and all SingPost outlets.