Huge upsets can occur in Super Rugby and that's what it will take for the Sunwolves to beat the Hurricanes at Napier's McLean Park tomorrow.
The fact the TAB had the Sunwolves at $21 for a head-to-head win earlier today was a reflection of the task the tourists face. First-season Sunwolves openside flanker Mitch Jacobson's reply was a predictable one when asked what his team had to do to cause an upset.
"We've got to nail our set piece. We struggled with that against the Reds," Jacobson said referring to last weekend's 64-5 loss in Brisbane.
"We've got to nail our scrum and our lineout. We have to be accurate and not concede too much turnover ball otherwise we will be punished."
The forwards spent the bulk of today's Captain's Run at McLean Park on their lineout and Jacobson confirmed large chunks of their training sessions earlier in the week were focused on scrummaging.
A Chiefs squad member last year, Jacobson, is relishing the increased minutes he is receiving with the Sunwolves including a full 80 against his former team in round two.
"There's a lot of travel but it has been an enjoyable experience. Last year's World Cup was massive for rugby in Japan ... there's a lot of support for Top League and Super Rugby fixtures."
A 2013 New Zealand Schools teammate of Hawke's Bay Magpies outside back Sam McNicol and 2014 and 2015 New Zealand U20s teammate of Magpies lock Geoff Cridge, Jacobson, had plenty of praise for the Magpies sole Sunwolves player, loosie Brendon O'Connor, who missed the trip to Napier with an ankle injury collected in training.
"Brendon is a really good man and a great footy player. He is always calm and doesn't get flustered."
An older brother of All Blacks loosie Luke Jacobson, Jacobson, heaped a similar amount of kudos on the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's Community Training Centre facilities which the Sunwolves have used since Sunday.
"It makes it easy when you are away from home to have awesome facilities like those to use."
Sunwolves manager James Kumate echoed Jacobson's praise.
"We've had an awesome week here and the facilities have been outstanding. The fields at Park Island were top level and it's good having them so close to the Community Training Centre."
Kumate pointed out the Sunwolves management have been impressed with O'Connor's contribution to the team.
"You can tell when he is on the field and it would have been great to have him here. But the Super Rugby is a tough comp and we had to do what is best for him and us long term."
"All the recommendations he gave us about Napier and Hawke's Bay were spot on."
None of the players from the Japan side which reached the quarter-finals at last year's World Cup are in the Sunwolves team. Kumate said those players are honouring their commitments to their Top League clubs.
"This has allowed us to introduce some young Japanese players to Super Rugby as well as players who have missed out on teams in their own countries. This is our last season in Super Rugby and we want to finish strong and continue our development towards the 2023 World Cup."
Kumate's Sunwolves will return to Australia after this weekend's game to play their next two which were originally scheduled for Japan but Sanzaar officials have made the move to reduce the coronavirus threat.
The Sunwolves will play the Brumbies in Wollongong next Friday in a doubleheader with the Waratahs and Chiefs and their round seven match against the Crusaders will be played in Brisbane on March 14 as a curtain raiser to the Reds clash with the Bulls.
Hawke's Bay's Zarn Sullivan will captain the Blues Under-20s when they take on their Hurricanes counterparts in the 2.05pm curtain raiser. Three Hawke's Bay players will be in the Hurricanes Under-20s.
Second five-eighth Danny Toala will start. New Central hooker, 2019 New Zealand Schools rep Ben Strang, and 2018 and 2019 world champion New Zealand Secondary Schools sevens player Latrell Ah Kiong are both expected to get game time off the bench.
Wellington-based former Napier Boys' High School hooker and 2018 New Zealand Schools rep Tyrone Thompson will start for the hosts. Manawatu-based first five-eighth, Stu Cruden, a Taradale age group product, will also be on the Canes' subs bench.
Teams for the 4.45pm clash:
Hurricanes: Chase Tiatia, Kobus Van Wyk, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Fletcher Smith, TJ Perenara (captain), Gareth Evans, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Vaea Fifita, Scott Scrafton, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia. Substitutes: Forwards, Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May, Alex Fidow, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders. Backs, Jonathan Taumateine, James Marshall, Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Sunwolves: Alex Horan, Siosaia Fifita, Keisuke Moriya (co-captain), Shogo Nakano, James Dargaville, Junpei Ogura, Rudy Paige, Jake Schatz (co-captain), Mitchell Jacobson, Tevita Tupou, Michael Stolberg, Kotaro Yatabe, Hencus Van Wyk, Jaba Bregvadze, Jarred Adams. Substitutes: Forwards, Efitusi Maafu, Nic Mayhew, Conraad Van Vuuren, Justin Downey, Shunsuke Nunomaki. Backs, Naoto Saito, JJ Engelbrecht, Tautalatasi Tasi.