The Sunwolves and Stormers both said Friday that very little can be written into the last meeting between the two sides ahead of their Super Rugby clash at Singapore National Stadium on Saturday.
The South African side scored a last minute converted try to draw 17-17 after trailing by 14 points when they last met in May 2016 under the roof in Singapore.
But as Sunwolves captain Ed Quirk pointed out Friday following his side’s training run at the match venue, both teams have moved on.
“Both squads are completely different. You’ve now got two different outfits that are both willing to play quick rugby,” he said.
The Sunwolves have won plaudits for the way they have improved week by week, but they are still in search of their first win of the season.
The Cape Town based Stormers, meanwhile, have made use of a favorable draw to win their opening three games. But that doesn’t mean they are taking the Sunwolves lightly.
“Last year’s game opened up my eyes and made me realize that you cannot take anything for granted, and we give the Sunwolves a lot of respect,” said Stormers captain Siya Kolisi.
The Springbok flanker said that while playing a side that played a unique style of rugby was difficult, the key for his team would be “to focus on what we have to do. We can’t worry too much about the opposition.”
The Sunwolves come into the game with the same approach, knowing that it is only unforced errors that have prevented them from getting a W next to their name.
“We build up some beautiful phase play and then choose the wrong option,” said Quirk. “The guys just need more game time so they know what to do under pressure.”
With the Sunwolves forwards more than holding their own in the tight and loose, much will depend on how the backs use the ball that comes their way.
The back three of Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Kenki Fukuoka and Shota Emi have been in superb form, but the Stormers also have a world-class threat of their own in Seabelo Senatla.
The World Sevens Player of the Year is one of 13 players in the Stormers squad aged 24 and under.
“We have a young squad that has come over and I don’t think one player in our backline tomorrow played last year,” said Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck.
The former South Africa center said his side had also learned lessons off the field following last year’s game, which saw them go into the match with limited preparation after lightning curtailed their captain’s run.
“Last year we were a little bit surprised by the conditions and humidity and how difficult the ball was to handle. We came here a bit earlier this time so we were able to get a session in Tuesday, yesterday and today. It was a good test for us and the boys have a good indication of how tough it is to play in these conditions.”
With the temperature set to be around 32 C — though the air conditioning and roof will make it a little cooler on the field — and humidity around 85 percent, the fitness of the two sides will also play a role.
“I don’t know if playing at altitude the last two weeks (in South Africa) will have a direct effect,” said Sunwolves strength and conditioning coach Simon Jones. “But it will help with the players’ mindset. They know they have fronted up and trained hard at an intense level in difficult circumstances.”
Like all the leaders within the team, Jones said the key to a turnaround in the Sunwolves fortune is simply making sure they are more accurate and taking the opportunities when they arise.