Sunwolves vs Brumbies: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Brumbies escaped with a win in Japan.

What are we talking about after their 32-25 victory?

1. Sunwolves getting some bite

The Sunwolves had a bit to celebrate in Tokyo. Photo: Getty ImagesThis was not the Sunwolves side of old that showed up in Tokyo on Saturday. They didn’t get the win in the end but the Japanese side looked more organised than they have in any other season. They produced solid set piece and impressive defence for much of the match, putting the Brumbies under a heap of pressure. New coach Jamie Joseph is no slouch - it was just three years ago he won the whole shebang with the Highlanders and Tony Brown is a fair offsider as well. Round one may have been a wakeup call for the Brumbies but it should also serve as a warning for the rest of the Australian conference.

2. Brumbies need to show more

The Brumbies' attack has lacked spark in recent years and they did not immediately look like a more dynamic side in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon. It might take them a couple of rounds to fully click, but the Brumbies simply did not adapt enough to the Sunwolves' challenge. Though they scored four tries, they won’t have as much wiggle room against better sides and will need to find a way out earlier.

3. Lealiifano influence telling

It’s been close to two years since Christian Lealiifano played a full 80 for the Brumbies and his presence made a major difference in Tokyo. Lealiifano set up Kyle Godwin for a critical try and was a calming influence as the match ticked on. He was super in his last full season with the Brumbies and this was the beginning of the skipper steering this side in 2018.

4. Mixed bag for backrow

Rob Valetini showed promise in his time on the field. Photo: Getty ImagesRob Valetini is considered one of the next big things in Australian rugby, but he might just have to wait to get more game time, after a leg injury ended his game prematurely. The 19-year-old was among the Brumbies’ best in the time he played, beating two defenders in three carries. The sight of the youngster in crutches at half-time will be a disappointing one for many Brumbies fans, though the saving grace there is if they can afford to lose a player from anywhere it is their back row. On the flipside, Isi Naisarani showed he has lost nothing in his cross-country move, shaping up as one of the Brumbies’ most influential in 2018.He finished with 20 carries and 72 metres, making two offloads along the way as well. There’ll be plenty keenly awaiting the day that he teams up with David Pocock. 

5. Slice of international history in Tokyo

Super Rugby has seen plenty of nationalities come through the ranks of various teams, but there was a first for the Sunwolves on Saturday. Georgian hooker Jaga Bregvadse was injected into the game with 18 minutes to go, becoming the first player from his nation to play Super Rugby. It’s a big step for the nation, which has been pushing for Six Nations inclusion and could have a chance to make a major statement in the 2019 Rugby World Cup when they face Fiji, Wales and the Wallabies in their pool.