Bloemfontein (South Africa) (AFP) - The yellow-carding of Takuma Asahara proved costly for the Japanese Sunwolves as they lost 38-31 to the Central Cheetahs of South Africa in Super Rugby Saturday.
The replacement prop was sin-binned after 65 minutes for a second offence in quick succession with the visitors clinging to a 31-30 lead at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Cheetahs opted for a scrum from the resultant penalty and scrum-half Tian Meyer threw a long pass to send centre Rayno Benjamin over in the corner.
Fly-half Fred Zeilinga failed to convert but added a penalty while the Sunwolves were still a man short to close the scoring.
Sunwolves, who lost 92-17 at the same ground last year, finished the match in the Cheetahs half and were let down by a couple of unforced errors.
They allowed the South Africans to steal a line-out and a knock-on by lock Liaka Moli halted a promising multi-phase attack.
Running the Cheetahs so close must encourage a team humiliated 83-17 in Tokyo two weeks ago by title-holders Wellington Hurricanes of New Zealand.
Sunwolves also lost to another South African side, Southern Kings, in Singapore last weekend.
It was the third consecutive home fixure for the Cheetahs, who began with a loss to the Golden Lions, then beat Northern Bulls in a second South African derby.
Sunwolves were ahead within 30 seconds of the kick-off thanks to a try by full-back Shota Emi and trailed only 20-17 at half-time.
A try by centre Clinton Swart put the hosts 13 points ahead early in the second half before a brace from winger Kenki Fukuoka gave the Sunwolves a one-point advantage.
Asahara was then yellow-carded and the match swung decisively in favour of the home side.
Skipper and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, flanker Oupa Mohoje, Swart and Benjamin scored tries for the Cheetahs.
Zeilinga missed only one shot at goal as he kicked three conversions and four penalties.
Fukuoka (2), Emi and New Zealand-born fly-half Hayden Cripps crossed for Sunwolves tries.
Cripps kicked two conversions and a penalty and his replacement and fellow New Zealander, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, slotted two conversions.