By Masato Yahagi and Toshiaki Obitsu / Yomiuri Shimbun Sportswriter The Sunwolves’ fourth season in Super Rugby came to an end on June 14 with the Japanese team last among 15 overall after two wins and 14 losses — the second consecutive year they have finished last.
The team failed to improve on their three wins in the 2018 season and advance to the playoffs of the top eight teams in the international professional league of mostly southern hemisphere countries, a goal the Sunwolves had set for themselves at the start of the season.
They completed powerful offensive plays in several games, drawing on the running skills of backs such as Semisi Masirewa and Gerhard Van Den Heever, in addition to the accurate kicking of fly half Hayden Parker.
The Sunwolves won their first away victory since they joined the league when they beat the Chiefs, one of the superpowers in New Zealand, raising hopes for more wins than ever this season.
However, after defeating the Waratahs in Australia in Round 7, they lacked stability in scrums and lineouts, and lost their pace with penalties in many matches. They lost all of their games from April on. In two of their games they failed to score, which had never happened in the previous three seasons, and they did not win a home game for the first time.
The Japan Rugby Football Union formed a special team called the “Wolfpack” comprising candidates for the Japan national team. The main players of the national team played mainly in the Wolfpack, and only a few national team hopefuls consistently played for the Sunwolves. There were also many injured players.
Sunwolves acting head coach Scott Hansen, reflecting on the season, said that the players changed frequently and it was difficult to build a team.
Head coach Tony Brown also worked as a coach of the national team, and there was a period when he left the Sunwolves.
Despite this, there were a few bright spots for the Sunwolves ahead of the World Cup in September. Lock Luke Thompson returned to the national team after his performance for the Sunwolves was highly praised, and Japan national team fullback Ryohei Yamanaka and scrum half Kaito Shiegeno gained experience as central members of the Sunwolves.Speech