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19:07 9 March 2017

Rugby: Sunwolves make 7 changes to starting XV for Cheetahs clash

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, March 9, Kyodo

Sunwolves head coach Filo Tiatia named five uncapped players Thursday in his 23-man squad to play the Cheetahs on Saturday in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

The starting XV shows seven changes from the team that took to the field last weekend against the Kings in Singapore as the Sunwolves look for their first win of the 2017 Super Rugby season.

Hooker Yusuke Niwai, prop Yasuo Yamaji and lock Uwe Helu will all make their debuts as will hooker Atsushi Sakate and flyhalf Jumpei Ogura if they come off the bench.

"The team have worked extremely hard on their adjustments this week and the addition of these five men has brought another flush of energy to the pack," Tiatia said in a press release from South Africa.

"We have a strong philosophical approach to the management of our players and providing opportunities to expose them to quality rugby is important to us. Representing the Sunwolves and Japan means a lot to these guys and they will do us all very proud."

Tiatia said the squad were glad to be back in Bloemfontein despite the city being host to two of the worst results ever suffered by Japanese teams.

Last year, the Sunwolves were hammered 92-17 in the corresponding fixture, having lost 32-31 to the Cheetahs earlier in the season in Singapore.

The city was also the venue of Japan's 145-17 loss to New Zealand at Rugby World Cup 1995.

"South Africa is a wonderful place to tour and a wonderful place to play rugby." Tiatia said. "We will not be underestimating the Cheetahs at their home ground and we will take the field on Saturday in true Sunwolves attacking spirit."

Niwai and Yamaji form an all new front row alongside Koki Yamamoto, who is promoted from the bench.

"It is an honor to be selected as a team member of the Sunwolves," said Niwai. "This will be a massive challenge and a great experience in my career. I will contribute to the team especially in the breakdown and the contact area."

Helu lines up in the second row alongside Liaki Moli, with captain Ed Quirk, Willie Britz and Shuhei Matsuhashi, who impressed coming off the bench in the 37-23 loss to the Kings last week, in the back row.

Keisuke Uchida is brought back at scrumhalf to replace Fumiaki Tanaka, who has been rested, with Hayden Cripps keeping his place at flyhalf.

Derek Carpenter and William Tupou line up in the centers with Kenki Fukuoka, Takaaki Nakazuru and Shota Emi making up the back three.

Sakate makes the bench despite only joining the squad on Tuesday and he is joined by Masataka Mikami and Takuma Asahara as the front-row replacements.

Sam Wykes and Shokei Kin will cover the second and back row with Kaito Shigeno, Ogura and Jamie-Jerry Taulagi the reserve backs.

Taulagi provided some much needed x-factor last week and rejoined the squad on Thursday, having initially been ruled out of the South Africa trip for "operational reasons."

==Kyodo

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