For Sunwolves, winning is not the be-all
Japanese Super Rugby side working hard to end losing streak ahead of Bulls test
SUNWOLVES v BULLS
(Saturday, 6.50pm, National Stadium)
They attracted a sellout crowd in their season opener against South African side the Lions and played well despite going down in a 26-13 defeat at home in Tokyo.
Two weeks later, Sunwolves generated a positive buzz as they arrived in Singapore for their "home away from home" Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs at the National Stadium.
The rookie Japanese outfit led 28-13 at the break and looked on course for a historic win, but were ultimately overpowered by the South African side 32-31.
After a 35-9 thumping by Australia's Rebels in Tokyo last Sunday, Sunwolves head into their second game at the National Stadium here on Saturday hardly buoyed by confidence.
Especially when their opponents are South Africa's Bulls, the three-time Super Rugby champions.
However, Sunwolves' Australian forward Edward Quirk, stressed the importance of the rookies gaining experience with every match and working on improvements in training every week, regardless of the results.
"In rugby, you play to win, but we're not exactly focusing on winning as the be-all," the 24-year-old said in a teleconference with local media yesterday.
"We want to keep getting better as a side so, as we gradually get better, then the wins will come.
"We're just step loading; obviously we want to get the win, but you've got to slowly get better as a team."
Sunwolves struggled mightily in their last match, failing to muster a try against the Rebels, and assistant coach Filo Tiatia said the team had to understand the only way forward was the old-fashioned route - hard work.
"The priority for us is to keep improving on things like our set-pieces, line-outs and scrums - we want to be better and more efficient in terms of what we're doing," he said.
"From an attacking point of view, we want to make sure that we nail our roles in terms of what our strategy and tactics are for that game."
Tiatia insisted the players' morale remains unaffected by the opening three defeats.
"The expectations say that because we're a very young team with very little Super Rugby experience, we should be losing these games - we're trying to change that mentality," the Kiwi added.
"We don't go out there to try to lose games. We try and prepare as well as we can to get a performance that we're really happy with, and ultimately come out with a win."
If they are to avoid another defeat, Sunwolves have to put in a top performance against the Bulls, who drew 16-16 against the Sharks in Pretoria last Friday.
"Most African sides are made up of very big men, so we know that we need to be working on an efficient way of stopping them," Tiatia said.
Quirk, who is looking forward to another run-out at the National Stadium, added: "I've played the Bulls a few times and they're starting to play some really good rugby and throw the ball around.
"Our forwards are just going to have to front up there physically wise, so we're looking forward to a physical game.
"We've put in good performances in the first few weeks as a new team.
"We're learning and as we gradually knock it all on the head, we'll definitely be there."
* Buy your tickets for Saturday's Sunwolves v Bulls match at the National Stadium from Sports Hub Tix
"We don’t go out there to try to lose games. We try and prepare as well as we can to get a performance that we’re really happy with, and ultimately come out with a win."
- Sunwolves assistant coach Filo Tiatia
Sunwolves’ tackle success percentage of 80.9 puts them 15th in the 18-team competition, behind the Bulls’ 83.2 (14th).