What is Super Rugby trying to achieve with the Sunwolves?

Now in their third season, the Tokyo-based franchise has employed as many head coaches as they've had wins (three).

This year, under Jamie Joseph, early evidence suggests they will be much more consistently competitive.

Residing in the Australian conference should help their cause, and despite two defeats this year they have the best tackle success rate (90.1 per cent) in Super Rugby.


But are results alone the sole objective?

In the first week of this year's competition, 13 of the Sunwolves' 23-man squad were not Japanese.

Last week in the 37-17 loss to the Rebels, only four Japanese-born and one player from South Korea were named in the starting team.

Those figures hardly reflect a development pathway.

What is the point in having a team based in Japan if the vast majority of promoted players are not from within?

Given the make-up of the Sunwolves squad, those in Perth and South Africa who had teams jettisoned late last year must be questioning the logic behind protecting Super Rugby's weakest member.

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The attraction with the Sunwolves largely came with the World Cup and Olympics staged in Japan over the next three years. Start building the momentum theory.

Gaining a foothold in the potentially lucrative Asian market was said to make financial sense, too.

Eddie Jones didn't help the launch. A major advocate of including a Japanese team in Super Rugby, Jones bailed on the eve of the Sunwolves' introduction; first to the Stormers (briefly) then to England.

In those circumstances, the Sunwolves never stood a chance year one – thrown in the deep end after terribly rushed preparation.

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Mark Hammett and Filo Tiatia have since come and gone. Now the task of creating better alignment sits with Joseph, who doubles as national coach alongside Tony Brown.

The real issue is the continued conflict with the established Top League. Teams in that competition - Panasonic, Toshiba, Suntory, Toyota, Honda - control Japan's rugby wealth and, thus, the priorities of players.

Nobody wants a return to the Sunwolves being flogged week-on-week but this is supposed to be a Japanese team, not one merely masquerading.

Even with Joseph hinting at improvement, major change is required to prove this team has a future beyond its license to 2020.

Chiefs props in strife

Flown under the radar somewhat but the Chiefs have a genuine propping crisis.

All Blacks Kane Hames is understood to be battling concussion issues of some description; Atu Moli is gone for the year with surgery on a quad haematoma, and Nepo Laulala will be sidelined with a fractured forearm for two to three months.

Nepo Laulala's injury has added to the Chiefs' front-row woes. Photo / Getty
Nepo Laulala's injury has added to the Chiefs' front-row woes. Photo / Getty

Throw in Mitchell Graham's on-going comeback from an operation to remove screws from his leg, and the Chiefs will be searching the country for emergency replacements.

NZ teams don't take shots at goal

Unless they absolutely have to, New Zealand teams don't take penalty shots at goal anymore.

Remember a time when rugby was about building pressure and accumulating points? It still is in some parts.

These days, in New Zealand at least, offloads appear king and capitalising on field position is the modus operandi.

Maybe it is a flow on from the All Blacks, who consistently back themselves to turn down shots and chase tries.

Five minutes into the match against the Stormers, Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock opted to scrum a penalty five metres out from the line.

And even when the Stormers mounted a comeback to get within 10 points, Whitelock had no hesitation pointing to the corner.

On both occasions, he was rewarded. Sam Cane did likewise with the Chiefs; the Hurricanes kicked one penalty in Argentina.

Meanwhile, the Reds beat the Brumbies without scoring one try.

Blues panic

Replacement hooker Leni Apisai threw the last, wonky lineout throw but panic within the Blues started well before then.

Six points down and 14 minutes left, the Blues scrum was monstered five metres out from the Chiefs line.

That comes down to concentration, with the whole pack to blame. From there on it never felt like the Blues would win.

From George Moala's non-pass with two men outside him to Melani Nanai's wayward offload, a lack of composure was evident throughout.

The Blues will hope Sonny Bill Williams' return can help them in Johannesburg. Photo / Photosport
The Blues will hope Sonny Bill Williams' return can help them in Johannesburg. Photo / Photosport

Training for such moments is difficult.

If they weren't already, these Kiwi derbies are a mental issue as much as anything else for the Blues.

For Tana Umaga's sake, hopefully the return of Stephen Perofeta and Sonny Bill Williams this week can inspire an upset in Johannesburg.