Preview: Sunwolves v Waratahs - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Preview: Sunwolves v Waratahs

Preview: Sunwolves v Waratahs

I saw a Sunwolf with ginger hair
Walking through the streets of Tokyo in the rain
He was looking for the winger called Naiyaravoro
Cos Big T bruised him again and again
If you hear him howling in the wind
Better not let him in
Poor buggers getting mutilated this week
Sunwolves of Tokyo again

Apologies to the late, great Warren Zevon.

Sunwolves skipper Ed Quirk provides the ginger

Sunwolves skipper Ed Quirk provides the ginger

The Waratahs and Sunwolves have only had one previous encounter, a comprehensive victory to the boys in blue. The Tahs have had a reasonably good start to their campaign with three wins and a draw from their five matches. The Sunwolves are yet to be on the right side of the ledger in any of their five matches, but their raw statistics aren’t terrible in comparison to the Tahs. Still, who relies on raw stats? The simple facts are that the Sunwolves have never beaten an Australian team and have conceded more than six tries per match this year. You’d want damn good odds to be investing a lazy dollar or two on them.

Why should I bother?

On paper at least, there should be a lot of running rugby in this match and hopefully plenty of five pointers. The wingers from both sides will be relishing the opportunity to improve their try scoring counts. Can the Sunwolves negate the power of Taqele Naiyaravoro and the pace of Alex Newsome? The Sunwolves winger Hosea Saumaki who has been in great form is now out and replaced by journeyman Masirewa who has pace but will he see enough of the ball?

Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro on the rampage

Key match ups

The Forwards

The Tahs should dominate up front against a willing opposition and provide halfback Jake Gordon with quick, clean ball allowing him to orchestrate the steamrolling of the Sunwolves pack giving the increasingly confident Tahs outside backs time and space. Greater urgency and efficiency (or lack thereof) in the four corners of the match (first five and last five minutes of each half) are key to the margin of the Tahs’ victory.

Conversely, the Sunwolves pack need to secure their own primary possession and work to effectively contest each breakdown. The backrow has a new look with Tokunaga and Lappies Labuschagne coming in and Himeno coming back from lock. Leitch has cracked ribs and is out for four weeks.

The No. 10s

Bernard Foley has pace and power available out wide and he’ll be relishing the opportunity to unleash it. Sunwolves flyhalf Yu Tamura will need to control field position if there is to be any possibility of an upset.

The game plans

The Tahs will almost certainly employ a classic “position and possession” approach to this match, attempting to get front foot possession before utilising their fast and powerful backline.

The Sunwolves will pay respect to field position but also look for any opportunity to go wide as they do have some significantly pacy backs of their own. Kick returns may provide an avenue to stretch the Tahs defence.


Tahs to dominate all over the park and unleash power and pace on their wings.

Tahs by 40.

Match Details


1. Craig Millar
2. Shota Horie
3. Jiwon Koo
4. James Moore
5. Sam Wykes
6. Yoshitaka Tokunaga
7. Pieter Lappies Labuschagne
8. Kazuki Himeno
9. Yutaka Nagare (c)
10. Yu Tamura
11. Lemecki Lomano
12. Michael Little
13. Timothy Lafaele
14. Semisi Masirewa
15. Kotaru Matsushima

16. Jaba Bregvadze
17. Keita Inagaki
18. Nickoloz Khatiashvili
19. Wimpie van der Walt
20. Ed Quirk
21. Fumiaka Tanaka
22. Hayden Parker
23. Hosea Saumaki


1. Tom Robertson
2. Damien Fitzpatrick
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Ned Hanigan
5. Rob Simmons
6. Will Miller
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Taqele Naiyaravoro
12. Kurtley Beale
13. Curtis Rona
14. Alex Newsome
15. Bryce Hegarty

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

Match Details

Date: Saturday, 7 April 2018

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium – Tokyo, Japan

Kick-off: 14:15 local, 15:15 AEST

Referee: Angus Gardner (Au)

Assistant referees:
Shuhei Kubo (Jp), Tasuku Kawahara (Jp)

TMO: Minoru Fuji (Jp)

  • Mattchoo

    Hey 2Blues, thanks for the write up – love your work with Warren Zevon there. I’ll be watching for sure and nervously too! Memories of our showing against the Jaguares remain and while we have had great second halves, we are very much a work in progress. In other words, no room for over confidence and certainly not smugness. Our forward pack seems to be improving slowly and steadily – a mighty effort from Simon Cron and the boys. Not sure what Tolu Latu is up to but clearly Damien and Hugh are in front of him. Good to see Will Miller get a start. It will be interesting to see how we respond to the Sunwolves if, as you say, their game plan is to go wide. Our defence will be key and I’m not sure Big T is as good in defence as with the ball in hand.
    Hoping for a good game!

    • 2bluesfan

      You’re right about Naiyaravoro but I am sure the Tahs will be wary of any kicks behind him (no, really, I am sure they’ll discuss this!). I’ve been a Miller fan for a couple of years – I think this match could really suit him.

      • Brumby Runner

        Brumbies last week attempted to sort TN out with grubbers etc behind him, but none really worked. First up, they were telegraphed, and then not very well executed being on the whole too deep. By overusing the tactic, TN was able to hang back in defense so that he was able to counter them quite easily. If the Sunwolves adopt a similar approach, they will need to execute with a lot more subtlety and accuracy than we saw last week.

    • Huw Tindall

      Hegarty seems like a smart footballer so can see him playing a big role in assisting TN with the kicking game. Will be chips in behind rather than up and unders he’ll need to help with. Usual structure would be a combo of Foley, Newsome and Hegarty to hang back to field the deep kicks.

  • Michael Leitch is out with a rib fracture. Tatekawa has a knee meniscus problem. No word on Robbie Robertson’s omission from the 23, nor Himeno who appears to have been dropped..

    They appear to have beefed up the wingers to counter Big T and Newsome at the expense of their speedy tryscorer Saumaki, who is on the bench.

    • 2bluesfan

      Thanks Hawko.

  • Adrian

    Tahs should do it easily,
    This is the type of match they have lost in the two seasons prior to this one.

    They have to start fast, and keep the foot down for 80 minutes.

    The fact that the Tahs won when playing poorly last is a good omen in my book. The fact that the Tahs blitzed the Rebs is an even better omen.

    NSW need to win by a lot to keep the Tah haters quiet, but even then they’ll be criticized for not winning by enough.

    Tahs smallish pack is suited to this game, but the Sonwolf pack will match them if NSW try to orchestrate mauls on one side of the field and then the other,…. which is a tactic they’ve used, and used well this year

    • 2bluesfan

      Some very good points there Adrian but I’m choosing to keep the faith on this one :)

      • Adrian

        Me too

    • Huw Tindall

      Total banana skin match.

      Hopefully with the Tahs seemingly improved attitude and team culture this year they won’t be complacent!

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    40’s a big call but it’ll certainly be a big win for the Tahs. The issue will be for them to keep their structure and not have everyone thinking they can score off every play. Shouldn’t be too much of an issue but something to watch for.

    • 2bluesfan

      You’re right about keeping to structures and processes but there’s enough experience in that Tahs team to (almost) take it as a given. If they can’t do that against a rejigged Sunwolves serious questions must be asked of leadership and coaching.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Absolutely mate. Should be a run in the park for them. Not a bad thing with Folau out and maybe a good time for Gibson to give some others a rest

    • Huw Tindall

      Keeping basic structure and plan is totally key. In the after work T20 comp against the bottom of the table we went out thinking we were all Adam Gilchrist trying blast a century of 20 balls and we got skittled. Show the opposition some respect and then go hard once you’ve earned the right.

    • Custard Taht

      40’s is par for this course. This is essentially a game between the Wallabies and a minnow.

  • Custard Taht

    The Tahs are going to bring 23 megatons of hurt this weekend.

  • formerflanker

    Selecting Will Miller at 6 points to lots of lateral movement before going forward. Moving the Sunwolves defence from one side of the field to the other in order to open up gaps in their line. I wonder if we will see Miller and Hooper operating as left side and right side jackals?

    Good luck to the young man in his first run-on game for the Tahs.

    • Huw Tindall

      Miller to be a genuine jackal and Hopper doing 3 men’s jobs as usual. Interestingly they moved Wells to 8 and Holloway to the bench. Another rangey back rowers rather than a genuine lineout option.

  • moaning expat

    If this was played in Singapore it would have drawn 30 thousand at twice the ticket price.

    • OnTheBurst

      Would it? In theory Singapore seems to make sense but has a decent crowd ever been posted there for rugby? I went to the 10s there a few years back in the new indoor stadium and the crowd was poor.

      Genuinely interested as I used to live in SG

      • moaning expat

        Well the 10s wouldn’t drag a huge crowd anywhere relatively speaking. It also was the first event in that stadium.
        My point was mainly a dig at the stupid way the conference was organised. Sunwolves play 3 games in sg …1 good and 2 average yarpie teams.
        Madness. There are not a huge amount of saffers in sg and bucketloads of ozzies and kiwis. Put one decent side in of an oz or kiwi team and youd get a crowd. We are starved for top level games.
        This year they play 1 game here and its yet again an average yarpie team no-one cares about.

        Its just a refection of the sheer cluelessness of rugby admin- especially 2 years out from a world cup being played in asia.

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