TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Sunwolves notched up another milestone on their Super Rugby journey when they edged the three-times champion Bulls 21-20 on Saturday to claim their first South African victim in their second season in the competition.
The victory, their first of the season, was secured by a Takaaki Nakazuru try and a Yu Tamura penalty while the Bulls were reduced to 14 players after centre Jan Serfontein had been sin-binned in the 68th minute.
The Pretoria-based Bulls could still have snatched the win but replacement back Francois Brummer missed the target with a late penalty and the Sunwolves held on to the delight of a noisy crowd at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.
“It was awesome to get a win at home,” Sunwolves captain Tim Lafaele said in a pitchside interview.
”Big crowd, they always stay to the end, they must be the best fans in the world I reckon.
“Big ups to the boys, everyone did their roles really well, put them under pressure.”
The Sunwolves, who won only once in their first season in the competition over fellow new boys the Jaguares, made a great start when number eight Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco marked his Super Rugby debut with a sixth minute try.
If the flowing move that led to Warren-Vosayaco’s score typified the attacking intent the Sunwolves have shown since they joined Super Rugby, Burger Odendaal’s first half reply for the Bulls exposed their defensive frailties.
The centre received the ball on first phase possession from a lineout on the 10-metre line and barged through two tacklers before racing to touch down under the posts.
Two Hayden Cripps penalties gave the home side an 11-10 halftime edge but Tiaan Schoeman’s second penalty soon put the Bulls in front and he added the extras when Travis Ismaiel broke three tackles to touch down in the corner in the 63rd minute.
Lafaele thought the bench had proved the difference as Sunwolves overturned a 20-10 deficit and hoped the victory might give them a boost before they head off on a tough four-week tour of New Zealand and Argentina.
“Our bench came in with heaps of energy, it was good,” added the Samoan-born centre.
“That win will give us confidence going into playing the New Zealand teams, hopefully it’ll give us a bit of energy.”
Having not played a New Zealand team at all in their debut season, the Sunwolves opened their second campaign with a 83-17 defeat at the hands of the Wellington Hurricanes that had some critics questioning their place in the competition.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar