The same backline that tore apart the Waratah’s ‘blue wall’ last weekend has been given the go-ahead to wreak havoc once again this week when the Sunwolves travel to Melbourne for their match up with the Rebels.
Whilst the forward pack hasn’t escaped from the chopping and changing that seems to be a regular occurrence for the Sunwolves in 2019, stand-in coach Scott Hansen has chosen to keep things consistent in the backs, which means that prodigious sharpshooter Hayden Parker retains his spot at first five and last week’s hat trick superstar Semisi Masirewa will again line up on the left wing.
Parker is sitting on a handy 27 kicks at goal on target out of 27 kicks taken for 2019 – not a bad result for a player who struggled to get any real opportunities with the Highlanders for the half-decade he spent with the southerners from 2013 to 2017. Combined with last year’s effort of 48 goals out of 50 attempts and it shouldn’t have been a hard decision for Hansen to make. Still, given how volatile the team named can seem from week to week, it will always be a relief for Sunwolves fans when Parker holds his spot.
In the forwards, however, the changes are plentiful with both second rowers from last week, Mark Hattingh and Uwe Helu, dropping to the bench. Taking their jerseys in the starting team are ex-Hurricane Mark Abbott and the 37-year old Luke Thompson.
The loose forward trio also receives a shakeup with current captain Dan Pryor the only player to retain his jersey from last week. Hendrik Tui shifts from the blindside flank to the back of the scrum while Australian-born Ben Gunter comes in for Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco.
In their four-year history, the Sunwolves have only tasted victory against Australia teams twice: last year when they thumped the Reds in Tokyo and again last week when they came from behind to narrowly pip the Waratahs in Sydney.
The result against the Waratahs was also the first time that the Sunwolves have won in Australia – a nice monkey off the team’s back after they also won in New Zealand for the first time ever when they dismantled the Chiefs in Hamilton last month.
The Rebels are Australia’s highest ranked team at present with Quade Cooper and Wil Genia the on-form halves combination in the competition.
The Sunwolves have not had a great time in their previous matches against the Victorians, conceding at least 35 points in the three matches they’ve played whilst never scoring more than 17.
This year’s Rebels squad looks to be considerably stronger than what we’ve seen in previous years –thanks in part to the addition of Genia and Cooper for 2019. However, the Sunwolves too have shown that they’re not necessarily the walk in the park that they used to be and will be looking to break one more record when they hit AAMI Park tomorrow night.
Sunwolves: Ryohei Yamanaka, Gerhard van den Heever, Jason Emery, Harumichi Tatekawa, Semisi Masirewa, Hayden Parker, Kaito Shigeno, Hendrik Tui, Dan Pryor (c), Ben Gunter, Luke Thompson, Mark Abbott, Ji-won Koo, Jaba Bregvadze, Pauliasi Manu. Res: Nathan Vella, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Uwe Helu, Grant Hattingh, Jamie Booth, Takuya Yamasawa, Josh Timu.
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