Aussie pep-talk that fired up Sunwolves
"YOU'RE the bad bunch," Australian Ed Quirk told the Sunwolves in their change-room last Saturday before they faced the Melbourne Rebels.
Reminding Japan's Super Rugby players that no other franchise wanted them, Quirk's passionate pre-game speech fired up the doomed Sunwolves to a stunning 36-27 win over a Wallaby-stacked Rebels.
Nobody expected the Sunwolves to win a game in 2020, considering they've already been axed beyond this season and only managed to fill their roster five weeks ago - with some university students and IT workers taking up the last spots.
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"I told them, 'You're the bad bunch, you've come from all over, and this is your opportunity'," Quirk said.
"I was in the same position. I was not wanted in Australia at all, I was given one last opportunity to play Super Rugby by the Sunwolves, and I've been in Japan five years now.
"I told them, 'You guys have got the same opportunity. Turn this into something long term. You can play your way into a contract with another Super Rugby side or one of the teams here in Japan's Top League."
Under new coach Naoya Okubo - the first Japanese coach of a Super side - the Sunwolves produced a thrilling attacking display to score five tries and win their first ever opening-round match.
Australian discards James Dargaville, Jake Schatz and Tautalatasi Tasi were among the top performers.
Quirk, the first player to sign with the Sunwolves when they were admitted entry to Super Rugby in 2016, was invited by Okubo to hand out the playing jerseys for the 2020 opener.
His Top League club Canon Eagles released him for the weekend to fulfil the duty.
"I was so proud to watch them play the way they did, these guys only started pre-season training three weeks ago," Quirk said.
"I can definitely see some big results for them this season, and if those performances continue it's really going to put heat on SANZAAR.
"They've made the decision to cut the Sunwolves after this year but I'd love to see them find a way to keep them on."
The Sunwolves are on top of the Australian conference but have a bye in round two.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs host their first match of the season in Newcastle on Saturday night, after losing to the Crusaders in round one in Nelson.
NSW needs to bounce back with a win against Auckland's Blues, who will be missing star All Black winger Rieko Ioane due to a hand injury.
The Tahs will on Thursday unveil new chief executive Paul Doorn, who coincidentally replaces Andrew Hore, who defected to the Blues in the pre-season.