Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase says the team wants to prove a point to SANZAAR in the time they have left in Super Rugby.
The Sunwolves were told last week that they would not be participating in Super Rugby beyond 2020, with the JRFU withdrawing its financial support and the SANZAAR partners unwilling to foot the bill for the Japanese side.
Wasate said their remaining games would be an opportunity to repay fans but also maybe show SANZAAR they can be a competitive part of Super Rugby.
“We have still 10 more games this year and also one more season next year,” he said.
“These are an opportunity to say thanks to the fans because they have supported us so much.
“We need to just focus on that and also in the future maybe if we are showing good enough performance and SANZAAR will have regrets about their decision, it will be great for us.”
Coach Tony Brown, whose contract with the team ends after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, said on a FOX SPORTS podcast that South Africa had gotten “revenge” for losing the 2023 World Cup in pushing the Sunwolves out.
Speaking later on Friday, at the team’s captain’s run, he said that was only part of the wider problem.
“There’s so many things that went wrong, so many people that didn’t want the Sunwolves to exist and we are where we are now because of that,” he said.
While Brown’s contract was always wrapping up after the 2019 World Cup, many of the organisation’s staff will be left with one more year of work to keep the team going, knowing its fate is already decided.
“It’s frustrating for the organisation really,” he said.
“The players will get another team and the coaches will get another job but the organisation where everyone’s done the hard work to get the Sunwolves up and running and creating awesome atmosphere in the stadium and all of that, seems to be a bit of a waste and frustrating for them because they can’t keep building on what they’ve achieved.”
Brown said the side had to focus on continuing their 2019 improvement and finishing next year on a good note, to repay the support they have received from fans.
“I think the Sunwolves fans will definitely want to have a good year next year,” he said.
“I think ultimately that’s what the team needs to focus on now is just performing for guys who show up every Saturday and I think sometimes if you’ve just got one year to go, you can have quite an exciting time and there’s no pressure around the following year and you can just enjoy the challenge for what it is.
Japan’s rugby pathway will now fall back to Top League clubs and universities, many of which have a far different focus than simply producing players for their Test side with private owners and company commitments.
Brown said that format simply wasn’t going to be good enough for Japan to keep improving in the Test stage but said an Asian Super Rugby competition could go some way to helping bridge the gap.
“I think they’re going to go back to company rugby as your main form of preparation for Japan rugby so I think that’s pretty clear now, the Sunwolves are potentially not going to exist again,” he said.
“There’s a few rumours around a few other things but ultimately to prepare test teams it looks like it’s going to be the company rugby that is going to be the way forward for Japan.
“It’d (Asian Super Rugby) still be a frustrating competition to be a part of when you were a part of Super Rugby I think but I think if that’s all there is for the Sunwolves and the fans want to keep the team alive and the organisation want to keep it going, I think potentially there could be an exciting time as well.”
While the JRFU’s decision to withdraw financial support was a catalyst for the side’s downfall, Watase said they had to try and align with the national body when it came to life after 2020.
“We have to get aligned with them (JRFU), talking about the future possibilities, we have to think about the high performance point of view, like how to establish a good high performance pathway for Japan because everyone in Japan wants to see the Japan team beat some tier one countries so we need to make more constructive discussions with them.”