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March 28, 2017 15:14

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16:17 3 March 2017

Rugby: Sunwolves hoping improved defense will see them beat Kings

By Rich Freeman
SINGAPORE, March 3, Kyodo

The Sunwolves head into Saturday's Super Rugby game against the Kings knowing that while lessons need to be learned from last week, there is no point dwelling on the big defeat to the Hurricanes.

"We have left last week to last week," co-captain Ed Quirk said Friday after his team's final training run at Singapore National Stadium.

"We've had an unreal preparation and today's captain's run was quite slick. We have worked on what we had to and are keen for tomorrow."

Much of that work has been done with defense coach Ben Herring after the Sunwolves missed 43 tackles and shipped in 13 tries last week to the defending champions.

"We've done a review and the systems are fine," Herring told Kyodo News. "Now we have to work on the bigger picture, which is the individual tackle. Systems come unstuck if you miss one-on-one tackles."

Herring said the inexperience of his young charges at Super Rugby level did not help, but he praised their willingness to learn.

"The attitude in training this week has been really good," he said.

With conditions set to be hot and humid, the Sunwolves will be hoping to run their bigger opponents around the paddock when they have the ball in hand.

And to make sure they are used to match conditions, much of the training -- which was done Friday at 9 a.m. -- was carried out with a ball soaked in water to replicate match-day conditions when the game kicks off at 6:55 p.m. Singapore time.

A lot rides on two players making their debut for the Sunwolves in halfback Fumiaki Tanaka and Hayden Cripps.

Tanaka, however, has plenty of Super Rugby experience from his time with the Highlanders and has, according to assistant coach Atsushi Tanabe, "been a really good leader."

Head coach Filo Tiatia said it was important the pair "understood how to drive the game plan and get the details right."

Tiatia also confirmed that wing Kenki Fukuoka was fit to go, having recovered from the fever he was suffering the day before.

The Olympian's experience will help Shota Emi, who starts in the unfamiliar fullback position, with the Kings expected to replicate the Hurricanes' game of testing the back three with high kicks.

The Kings, for their part, will also be looking to rectify the small errors that saw them go down 39-26 to Argentina's Jaguares last week.

"We respect what the Sunwolves will bring but we can't focus too much on them. The focus is on us," captain Schalk Ferreira said.

With their lock stock depleted the Kings could struggle in tight, providing the Sunwolves scrum as well as they did last week, and the general feeling is the game could really open up as the humidity takes its toll.

"We know the Sunwolves like to play with ball in hand and they have some very quick players around the park," said Kings coach Deon Davids.

"The humidity and tempo will be a challenge but if we can ensure we are competitive it will be a competitive game."

Ferreira said his team had learned from the three games other South African teams played in the city-state in 2016.

"Last year the South African teams made a mistake in not training very hard when they got to Singapore and were then shocked by conditions on match day," the loosehead prop said.

"We trained for 90 minutes yesterday and while we are not used to the conditions we are accustomed to them."

The two sides met once last year, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with the home side winning 33-28.

"We were our own worst enemy last year," said Tiatia, who was then Sunwolves assistant coach. "If we play our style and do our roles then hopefully we can get the outcome we want."

==Kyodo

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