The wily coach facing one of rugby’s toughest tests vs Robbie Deans

If the Yokohama Cannon Eagles want to stop the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in their first Japan Rugby League semifinal on Saturday at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, they'll have to do more than snap a 15-game, nine-year rout. Effect.

Success will also require challenging the king of contemporary club rugby, Wild Knights boss Robbie Deans.

It is perhaps surprising that he is not ranked internationally given that he lifted Australia's world rankings from sixth when he arrived – and held on to second place for most of his time in that position – before leaving with the team ranked third (a position that will be held by the current generation Which is currently ranked tenth). Killed for), the former Wallaby coach was a serial winner at club level throughout his distinguished career.

Video separator

Chasing the Sun on RugbyPass TV | RBTV

Chasing the Sun, the extraordinary documentary tracing the Springboks' path to victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, is coming to RugbyPass TV.

watch now

Deans won two of three semi-finals while leading Canterbury to the New Zealand National Provincial Championship, claiming the title in his first season in 1997.

Deans headed the Crusaders team, winning seven of the eight semi-final matches he played, and went on to win the title, in tournaments in which South African teams participated, five times.


Japan's premier rugby league

Saitama Wild Nights

Yokohama Cannon Eagles

Their only losing semi-final in nine years in Super Rugby came against the Bulls at Loftus in 2007, at the conclusion of a season in which the New Zealand side were without an All Blacks squad for much of the season due to the national player's controversial conditioning. Tried the program at that time.

His subsequent association with the Wild Knights saw the team win all eight semi-final matches to which they qualified, securing the title on five occasions.

In total, the 64-year-old won 15 of his 17 club semi-final matches, a whopping 88%, winning the title on 11 occasions (73%).

Such statistics are unprecedented in the professional era, and the Deans are likely to add another semi-final mark this year, given that Saitama has just completed its third regular season unbeaten from the Final Four, with a 53-12 and 43-14 win over the Eagles among the Group of 16 Game.

But if it seems like climbing Japan's 3,776-metre Mount Fuji might be an easier task than beating a team coached by Deans, rest assured that wily Eagles coach Keisuke Sawaki will have a plan.

A two-time champion with Tokyo Suntory Songoliat, twice beating Dens in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 championship matches, Sawaki came agonizingly close to breaking Yokohama's losing streak to Saitama last year.

Then, a late try put the Eagles ahead 19-14, only for them to concede a botched penalty for handing the ball over, which they would never see again as the Wild Knights calmly made their way down the field, holding possession until prop Asaeli Ai Valu crashed in the minute. 80, which Rikiya Matsuda converted into a 21-19 win.

Sawaki will also remind his teammates that Saitama's mantle of invincibility was pierced by the Kubota Spurs Funabashi Tokyo Bay last season, as the title-winning champions rallied from a 30-15 regular-season beating to edge the Wild Knights by two in a game that mattered. Most.

While steady improvement under Sawaki has seen the Eagles rise from the top eight in the post-Covid-shortened 2020 season, to sixth in 2021, and reach successive semi-finals in the first two editions of the I-League, Yokohama's achievement has been a mixed bag. This season.

Although they have reached the playoffs, their record highlights the growing competitiveness among the leading clubs, which has reduced the number of wins required.

The Eagles qualified despite losing six times – two more than last season – and as many defeats as they suffered in the first edition of the Japan Rugby League when they finished sixth.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *