As the Super Rugby 2018 season has begun, the finalized list of fixtures was released by the franchises. This was confirmed, when the HITO-Communications Sunwolves announced they had added to their ‘home games’ locations, by including Hong Kong and Singapore games, to compliment their Tokyo schedule.
Now in the clubs third formative year, it is a step in a new direction; in both fixtures, and in the sides nominated conference.
Hong Kong will stage its first ever Super Rugby match on 19 May 2018 at Mong Kok Stadium when Japan’s Hito-Communications Sunwolves host South Africa’s DHL Stormers in Week 14 of the 19-week 2018 regular season. https://t.co/gDeIu2yFyF pic.twitter.com/7nNsfwBpUv
— Asia Rugby (@asiarugby) February 23, 2018
Super Rugby set for Hong Kong and Singapore fixtures in 2018
The first Asian Super Rugby franchise, has looked inward for the majority of it’s original schedule. The home base of Tokyo is becoming a strong base to operate from, with local and imported players playing at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.
The Japan Super Rugby Association have established a pattern of wanting to ‘grow the game’. A schedule designed to drive momentum and local support for the team in its all-important formative stages, and that is now improved, by the schedule including a Hong Kong clash.
The Mong Kok Stadium, will be a huge occasion. Facing the Stormers on Saturday, May 19, it will be well attended by both teams traveling fanbase, as well as the enthusiastic Hong Kong/Chinese fans.
Mr Robbie McRobbie, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, welcomed the debut Super Rugby tie in the city. “Super Rugby is one of the world’s premier rugby competitions and the Hong Kong Rugby Union is excited to welcome the Sunwolves and Stormers for the first ever league fixture here in May.
“With a thriving rugby community and a large expatriate population, we are confident that both sides will be well received.”
A wonderful addition, having two Hong Kong and Singapore fixtures is now an extra destination for fans to plan for. No doubt, it will create wider fan engagement. Key to the success of the franchise, in as much that victories are too a key to success.
Sunwolves fall to ACT Brumbies in Round Two fixture
Opening their 2018 campaign, like they did last season, the Sunwolves were matched against another former Champion team. The ACT Brumbies, two-time champions, are no easy beats.
A member of the five team Australian conference, the Sunwolves began this ‘local derby’ which has the first game in Japan, followed in Week 16 with an away trip to Canberra. So it was an opponent that data could be collected on, for the return match in June.
But in their opening effort, the more experienced and better prepared Brumbies overcame the hosts, 25-32.
— Rich Freeman (@FreemanrugbyJPN) February 24, 2018
Head coach Jamie Joseph can now tell his squad “this is the level you must reach” every week. The championship winning coach of the 2015 Highlanders, Joseph is also the national team coach. That dual-role means he is aware of local players, as well as the imported men.
With the focus of World Rugby on the region, home fixtures can only help to build the level of players skills. The local fixtures are also key to the sponsor drive, building ties with clubs in the Japan Top League and promoting the sport. Japan has a strong rugby culture, and the Sunwolves continued presence in Super Rugby will assist that.
For the 2018 season, two home matches begin the teams schedule. The side will play their next game at the Chichibu Rugby Field, hoping that they can produce their first points of the year. Winning at home is always going to be an expectation, so after learning from the mistakes of this week, the Sunwolves will continue their journey in Super Rugby 2018.
Week 14 – Sunwolves v Stormers, May 19. Mong Kok Stadium, Hong Kong
Week 17 – Sunwolves v Bulls, June 30. Singapore National Stadium
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