Sunwolves count on 'home' support
Sunwolves counting on 'home' support to spur them to victory over the Cheetahs
They might be the newest kids on the block, but Japanese outfit Hito-Com Sunwolves are keen to make a quick impression with the local crowd as they take on South African side Toyota Cheetahs in Super Rugby action at the National Stadium tomorrow.
The Sunwolves, who lost their first game against the Lions 26-13 in Tokyo on Feb 27, are making their "home away from home" debut, and coach Mark Hammett wants his players to woo spectators with their prowess on the pitch.
"One of the things for us is to try and embrace and play our brand of rugby that the Singapore nationals, and anyone who supports rugby, want to come out and see," he said, in an interview at Pan Pacific Singapore yesterday.
"Some of the internationals (in the Cheetahs squad) are the best players in their positions.
"So, it would be pretty exciting for any rugby follower, or even sports enthusiasts, to get out and watch that calibre of players and intensity of the game."
The Sunwolves are no pushovers themselves.
Their 39-man squad boast 12 players with Rugby World Cup experience, including 10 from Japan, one from Samoa and another from the United States.
Lock Hitoshi Ono, who is the most-capped player in the Japanese national team, said that producing a good performance will be key to attracting a larger crowd for subsequent home games here.
"I expect to see a lot of people from different countries but, since Singapore is our home ground, we'd like to play well so people in Singapore can be proud of us," said Ono, 37.
"Of course, we would like to win, but this is our first year in Super Rugby, so we are the challengers."
Similarly, Hammet remained coy about his side's chances tomorrow, but said the bye in the previous round of matches has helped his side get a "little bit more organised".
"We'd be silly to make predictions. We know we go into each game as underdogs, but we're not afraid, we're always searching desperately for a win," he said.
Reflecting on the defeat by the Lions, Hammett added: "We're not hiding from the fact we've probably battled at scrum time, certainly early in the half, and some of the set-pieces in terms of how to get the game started.
"We've worked hard over the last two weeks to try and remedy it.
"I don't think it'll be perfect, but we've also trained non-perfect situations if it does happen again."
The New Zealander, who has 29 caps for the All Blacks, also dismissed suggestions that being co-based in Japan and Singapore is a disadvantage for his side.
"The one thing it often does is it means the group's together a lot," he said.
"It's easier to call for meetings, it's easier to do extra sessions and you start building those relationships that are important in teams.
"Probably, the biggest logistical thing for us is the travelling… So that's one of the things we have to challenge and overcome."
For Australian loose forward Edward Quirk, such obstacles, including playing in the humidity here, will not prevent the Sunwolves from going all out tomorrow.
"This is our home ground, so no excuses," the 24-year-old said.
"We've got our own strategy leading in, not focusing on the Cheetahs too much. We want to get our preparation right so that we can compete.
"The Cheetahs play a very expansive game and we play the same, so everyone should be looking forward to a good rugby match."