Super Rugby

Ambitious Sunwolves target top-five finish in 2018 and a Super Rugby championship within five years

Jamie Joseph, who also coaches Japan’s national team, is now in charge and has added backbone to a squad that has struggled in recent seasons

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 6:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 6:24pm

The new coach of Japan’s Sunwolves Super Rugby side is targeting a top-five finish next season, despite the team being on the wrong end of multiple hidings in recent years.

New Zealander Jamie Joseph, who also coaches Japan’s national team, said that fans could expect a “much stronger team than we’ve had in the past two seasons”, as he unveiled a new squad.

Among a dozen new faces presented were South African-born flanker Wimpie van der Walt and Jaba Bregvadze, a Georgian hooker who has played top-flight rugby in England and France.

Joseph also vowed his team would play “consistent and attractive rugby … rugby that people want to come and watch and support” as the club said they were aiming to be Super Rugby champions within five years.

Bregvadze would give the team much-needed support in the set piece, said Joseph, who also highlighted defence as a major area for improvement, as the team leaked 671 points last season.

The Tokyo-based Sunwolves are playing in the five-team Australian conference this season and are replacing Western Force who were controversially dumped from the competition as the format downsized.

They have suffered drubbings including 92-17, 83-17 and 94-7 hidings over the past two seasons and Super Rugby’s chief executive Andy Marinos has described their performance as “disappointing” and said “improvement is necessary”.

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The Sunwolves have just come off another horror season in the southern hemisphere’s elite club competition, winning just two games.

They won only one of 15 games the year before in a chastening debut season. They open their campaign on February 24 against the Brumbies.