Preview: Brumbies v Sunwolves


The Brumbies will be hoping to secure their third successive win when they host the Sunwolves in Canberra on Saturday.

The home side will fancy their chances against the basement dwellers after notching impressive victories over the Bulls (23-6) and Rebels (30-22) in Round 11 and 12 respectively.

These two sides will meet for the first time in Super Rugby history, the Sunwolves have only played one other Australian side, the Reds, in a match that they lost 32-25. Despite having recorded one victory more than the Australian Conference table leaders, the Waratahs, the home side are one point adrift the men from Sydney.

They suffered defeats against the Stormers (in Cape Town), the Highlanders (in Dunedin) while both losses to the Chiefs and Crusaders were at home. 

Against the Stormers, the Sunwolves nearly managed to pull off a rare and remarkable win against the then Africa One Conference leaders, in Singapore, two weeks ago. A spirited effort from the men from Japan saw them lead the Stormers from the 11th minute up until a 79th minute try from Vincent Koch handed the visitors a 17-all, but what was impressive about the Sunwolves in that clash is how they made the most of their opportunities.

The visitors' back-line play has been one of their strengths. The vision along with the speed at which they attack has allowed mifielders Derek Carpenter and Harumichi Tatekawa to test even the toughest of opposition, with the competiton's top try-scorer, Akihito Yamada, fully capable of rounding off. 

Stephen Larkham's troops have been dominating the breakdown contest with a formidable back row spearheaded by Wallaby loose forward David Pocock, who has won 21 turnovers so far this season – the most by any player. 

The return of their inspirational captain Shota Horie will be welcomed by the Sunwolves, who have not enjoyed much success at the line-outs. The set piece has, however, been one of the platforms where the Brumbies have launched severalof their attacks, creating space for their powerful backs. 

The visitors will have to stop the Brumbies from gaining any form of momentum at the breakdown and set pieces, the former have conceded most of their tries this season in the first two phases while the home side have scored 65 percent of their 35 tries within the first two phases.

The men from the Far East will head into this clash as the underdog, despite having broken the line more (11) than their opponents (nine) and also having made more metres (440) than the hosts (348), but the scoreline can be kept within a respectable margin and this will depend on how quickly and clinically the Sunwolves can neutralise this potent Brumbies attack. 

Players to watch:  Wallabies flank David Pocock will have to be neutralised by the Sunwolves defence, the visitors' back row will have their work cut out when they come up against the competition's best turnover specialist. Having effected 21 steals, the 28-year-old's workrate at the breakdown is immense despite missing out on four weeks of rugby following a suspension earlier in the competition.

For the Sunwolves, Australian-born Ed Quirk has been putting in stellar performances for the visitors week after week, the loose forward has been one of his side's most consistent forwards who gets his basics right each week. He gained 43 metres in the five carries that he made in last week's clash with the Reds.

Team news: Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has made three changes to the side that outsmarted the Rebels, 30-22 two weeks ago. Michael Dowsett replaces Tomás Cubelli at scrum-half, Ruan Smith replacing Ben Alexander in the front row and Robbie Coleman returns from injury and slots in at inside centre. Smith packs down next to Scott Sio and co-captain Stephen Moore while Rory Arnold and Sam Carter form the lock partnership. Scott Fardy, David Pocock and Jarrad Butler are named as the back row. Co-captain Christian Lealiifano pairs up with Dowsett, who gets his first start of the season, to form the half back pairing. 

Meanwhile, regular Sunwolves captain Shota Horie returns to the Tokyo outfit's run-on side for the clash with the Brumbies in Canberra. Horie will don the number two jersey once again after playing off the bench in recent matches against the Reds and Stormers.

In other changes, Yu Tamara will start at fly-half with Tusi Pisi getting some much deserved rest although he is likely to come on later in the game. Former Cheetahs and Sharks stalwart Riaan Viljoen also takes a break and starts on the bench. Yasutaka Asahara will take his place at full-back.

Form:  The Brumbies are one point behind log leaders, the Waratahs, in the Australian Conference table after winning seven from eleven matches. Their loses came against the Stormers, Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders. The 31-11 defeat at Newlands was their first loss ending a three-match winning streak. Both loses to the Crusaders and Chiefs were at home, their last home game was against the Bulls which they comfortably won, 23-6. The visitor's first and only win came in Round Nine against fellow new boys, the Jaguares, in Tokyo.

The Sunwolves have never lifted off the foot of the Africa One Conference table, seven points adrift third placed the Cheetahs. Their most impressive performance came against the Stormers two weeks ago. A 79th minute try from Vincent Koch helped the Cape side to record a 17-all draw, when it looked set for the Sunwolves to record their second win.

Prediction: The home side have been in brilliant attacking form and the Sunwolves will have to be at their very best to stop their attack. The Brumbies to beat the Sunwolves by at least 15 points.

The Teams:

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c),9 Michael Dowsett ,8 Jarrad Butler ,7 David Pocock ,6 Scott Fardy ,5 Sam Carter ,4 Rory Arnold ,3 Ruan Smith ,2 Stephen Moore ,1 Scott Sio
Replacments: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Lausii Taliauli

Sunwolves: 15 Yasutaka Asahara, 14 Mifiposeti Paea, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi , 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Fa’ Atiga Lemalu, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18  Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Daisuke Inoue, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Riaan Viljoen

Date: Saturday, May 28
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper, Rohan Hoffmann
TMO: Ian Smith