Former All Blacks hooker and Hurricanes mentor Mark Hammett has been ushered in as the Sunwolves’ inaugural coach less than 10 weeks out from the Tokyo-based outfit’s Super Rugby debut.
Yoshitaka Tashiro from the Japan Super Rugby Association revealed Hammett along with the Sunwolves’ 34-man squad and team jersey in front of a large media contingent gathered in Tokyo on Monday.
Hammett’s squad features 15 players with Test experience and 10 of the Brave Blossoms squad that took the world by storm at the recent Rugby World Cup with a stunning pool win over South Africa.
Playing in a South African Conference alongside the Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers, the Sunwolves start with four “home” games, including two in Singapore.
The Sunwolves play each of the Australian teams – the Brumbies, Western Force, Melbourne Rebels, Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs team – once in 2016.
They will face teams in their own group twice and sides in the other South African conference (Jaguars, Kings, Lions and Sharks) once, but not tackle any New Zealand teams until 2017.
The team will wear a red/orange primary strip that represents the rising sun while the grey alternate signifies the speed and fighting spirit of the wolf that is emblazoned across both jerseys.
Hammett, 43, coached the Hurricanes between 2011 and 2014, recording 29 wins, two draws and 33 losses before joining the Cardiff Blues as director of rugby only to leave six months into a three-year contract at his own request.
He was a contentious appointment as Hurricanes coach, joining the Wellington franchise with little experience as head coach.
He began by firing All Blacks Ma’a Nonu and Andrew Hore, two of the franchise’s most-experienced and popular players, and that played a part in alienating fans.
Over four years, he coached the Hurricanes to seventh, eighth, ninth and eleventh placings, never reaching the tournament playoffs.
The Hurricanes made this year’s final under new coach Chris Boyd.