UPDATE 1: Rugby: Sunwolves humiliated as Bloemfontein curse strikes again
(ADDS HORIE QUOTES, DETAILS)
The Sunwolves showed Friday just why so many negative comments were made about the team before the Super Rugby season started.
Those that see the glass half full will say the 92-17 loss to the Cheetahs at Toyota Stadium was an abnormality given their battling performances in four of their previous six games.
But the manner in which they fell to their seventh straight loss will have those of a more pessimistic nature saying this was how they saw the Sunwolves’ season panning out — given their poor preparation, lack of depth and inexperience in terms of the travel and physicality expected of a Super Rugby side.
It was not lost on a few observers that one of Japan’s darkest hours in rugby came in the very same city where Japan were beaten 145-17 by the All Blacks at Rugby World Cup 1995.
And although this was not the national team and the scoreline was not quite as bad, it will have some wondering if last year’s performances at the World Cup were nothing more than a flash in the pan.
“It was a difficult result and we need to rebuild and work hard,” said Sunwolves captain Shota Horie.
“We are a little bit fatigued but we can’t use that as an excuse. It’s going to come down to physical conditioning from here on. We’ll have to start from scratch,” he said.
To put things in perspective, the last time the Sunwolves played the Cheetahs — in Round 3 in Singapore — the South African side won 32-31, having trailed 31-13 at halftime.
This time around, Mark Hammett’s side did very little right other than lead briefly through an early Tusi Pisi penalty and score second half consolation tries through Derek Carpenter and Mifiposeti Paea.
The Sunwolves’ scrum and line-out were appalling, their defense dreadful and their communication woeful and the Cheetahs took full advantage.
After the match, Hammett, who said he is disappointed as he knows the Sunwolves can be a better team, and Cheetahs captain Francois Venter were at opposite emotional extremes.
Hammett said playing at high altitude was a challenge and with his team being a new addition to the league, he had been prepared for results like this.
Meanwhile, Venter had every reason to be in better spirits.
“I have never played a game like that in Super Rugby,” said Venter.
“I can’t explain the feeling. I am so stoked for the supporters to give them a victory like that. It all started up front. We had a great scrum and line-out.”
Following Pisi’s early penalty, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Venter crossed in the space of two minutes before the floodgates well and truly opened in the 14th minute.
Uzair Cassiem, Raymond Rhule and Shaun Venter all crossed the whitewash and Sergeal Petersen weighed in with a brace of tries, with Daniel Marais adding five conversions, as the Cheetahs led 45-3 at the break.
The second half continued in the same vein with Hilton Lobberts and Clayton Blommetjies both going over in the opening five minutes before Carpenter and Paea gave the visiting fans something to cheer about.
But that was as good as it got for the Sunwolves as Paul Schoeman grabbed a hat-trick, Petersen added a third and Jacques du Toit also went over to ensure a miserable flight home to Japan for the Sunwolves, who take on fellow new boys the Jaguares next Saturday at Chichibunomiya.