Japan's Sunwolves refreshed for win over South Africa's Cheetahs in National Stadium clash
Japanese club's preparations better after bye in previous round
SUNWOLVES v CHEETAHS
(Tonight, 6.50pm, National Stadium)
They are a new Super Rugby franchise featuring a squad of players from nine different countries who have not had much time to gel.
They lost their season opener to the Lions last month and were grateful for a bye in the second round of matches.
Rookie Super Rugby franchise the Sunwolves from Japan will be fresher for tonight's clash with South Africa's Cheetahs at the National Stadium.
And that could just tilt the tie in their favour, especially with the heat and humidity here in their home away from home.
Addressing the media after a morning run out at the match venue, Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett was grateful enough for the additional preparation time it offered his team.
"That (bye) gave us 25 per cent more of a pre-season than what we had, so from that respect, it has probably been good for us," he said.
"In all the years I've been involved (sometimes you get a) bye too early, or a bye too late, travel early, travel late... we knew what the draw was well in advance and we just prepared for that."
It has not been all smooth sailing for the Sunwolves, though, as they will have to deal with the drastic change in weather between Tokyo and Singapore.
"The weather is very hot here and we came from a very cold winter in (Japan), so we're struggling a little bit," said Sunwolves skipper Shota Horie.
Franco Smith (left) and Mark Hammett. PHOTO: AFP
While the temperature in Tokyo has dipped to as low as 4 deg C this month, the weather forecast for Singapore today will see temperatures hovering around 33 deg C, falling to 26 deg C when the sun sets.
"But we're hydrating well, and we'll spend this afternoon walking around so we get used to this weather," added Horie.
The Japanese franchise will play three Super Rugby games here this season as part of an agreement with the Singapore Rugby Union.
The heat is just one facet of the Singapore climate that could have an impact on the fixture.
With the dome of the National Stadium to be closed before kick-off, the humidity - predicted to be around 70 per cent at game time - will test the players further.
"It could be slippery because of the humidity, that could open up quite a wide ranging type of game... we're aware of that. But there are challenges of cold weather, hot weather... it doesn't matter what the conditions are," said Hammett.
His counterpart Franco Smith - who witnessed his Cheetahs fall to the new Argentinian franchise Jaguares and the Stormers in their first two fixtures - echoed similar sentiments, and called for his charges to adapt quickly.
"We'll only have a chance to experience the wet ball once we're out there.
"You can anticipate as much as you want, we're prepared for a slippery ball, but we're still going to play our game, keep being effective at what we do," said the South African.
"We just have to strike a balance in the game, see how it plays, and adapt."
For Smith, the spectre of the Springboks' 32-34 Rugby World Cup shock loss to underdogs Japan still hangs in the air, stinging national pride.
Tonight, it promises to resurface as the Cheetahs face a Sunwolves side featuring 10 players who were part of Japan's famous win.
"I can't say that it hasn't crossed our minds, I think it will cross every South African's mind for the next four years.
"Compliments to Japan for the way they played their game, hopefully that is the wake-up call South Africa needed," said Smith.
The Sunwolves are also determined to register their first win of the season, an attitude most well demonstrated by their Samoan fly half Tusi Pisi.
"The guys from overseas have settled really well, and on the communication side of it, we've really worked hard mingling with each other and getting everyone to settle as a team," he said.
"Come tomorrow, none of these excuses about communication, or our short preparation, we're just going out there to execute what we've trained on - that's the bottom line."
“There are challenges of cold weather, hot weather... it doesn’t matter what the conditions are.”
— Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett
“You can anticipate as much as you want... but we’re still going to play our game, keep being effective at what we do.”
— Cheetahs coach Franco Smith