New coach Tiatia faces old Sunwolves problems
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Sunwolves new coach Filo Tiatia already faces some familiar problems as players are reluctant to join the side for the upcoming Super Rugby season.
Last season the Sunwolves battled to sign players and they had a far shorter preseason than any of their rivals and it appears that in 2017 they will have the same problems. Japanese Super Rugby franchise the Sunwolves have revealed that they have approached 33 players for next season but just 14 have verbally agreed to play.
Players blame the enormous amount of travelling on their reluctance to join.
The Japanese side will have the heaviest of travel burdens which are not helped by them being forced to play three matches in Singapore which is easier to access for South African teams due to SANZAAR's new draw.
Some players were reluctant to sign for the Sunwolves before they had signed the coach for the 2017 season the franchise has settled with Tiatia.
The Sunwolves playing schedule gives them more than twice as many kilometres as the other sides as they will fly almost 130,000 km next season with matches in South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and Singapore. To put that into perspective the circumference of the globe is just 40,075 km.
"We’ve inherited the biggest travel schedule of Super Rugby again. But it is what it is," Tiatia said.
"The challenge for us is how we do become the best organised and prepared team when we travel the world.
"We are crossing so many timelines that we need to prepare so we can perform when we hit the ground,"
Tiatia says that coaching the Sunwolves will be a challenge but one that he will relish.
"I am very excited about leading this group of men and management group in one of the hardest competitions in world rugby.
"The biggest thing will be getting this group of men to build on the continuity of last season and build on the foundations created by Mark Hammett,"
Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase said that 33 players had been approached by the Super Rugby franchise but just 14 of those players had given a verbal commitment to the side.
The Sunwolves have largely shown an inability to sign Japan’s top players for the franchise and many have agreed to play for rivals with lighter travel burdens.
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph said that getting Japan’s best players to sign for the franchise was one of the most important aspects of the Sunwolves plan.
"In the short term we could buy in big contract players but that won’t help the Japan team," Joseph said.
"The policy Filo and I have going forward is to develop Japanese rugby to the next level,"
Joseph does, however, admit that it will be a tough job to persuade all of Japan’ top players not to sign for rival Super Rugby teams or to take other overseas contracts.
The Sunwolves preparations for the 2017 Super Rugby will be hampered by the Japanese Top League which does not finish until mid-January and then there are two rounds of the All-Japan Championship. The knock on effect of that is the Sunwolves will only be able to play one warm-up match against a Top League All Star XV on February 18 before they open the season with a home match against the Hurricanes on February 25.
"We have three weeks of preparation and then we play the Hurricanes," said Tiatia.
"So it is going to be a tough challenge. But it’s something we did last year and we are going to try and improve on what we achieved last year,"
Tiatia says that he wants the Sunwolves to play an exciting brand of rugby that will continue to bring fans to the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground.
"We want to play fast rugby not just in terms of our body profile but also because it’s an exciting brand of rugby.
"My responsibility is to improve the team to get performances that are acceptable and get as many of our players as possible going on to represent the national team,"