A first win for the Sunwolves, a rollicking for the Reds and a cold shoulder from Canberra fans are in our talking points from week 13 of Super Rugby:
- Japan aim to feed off Sunwolves stunner -
Sunwolves flanker Michael Leitch believes their first win of the season -- a 63-28 crushing of the Queensland Reds in Tokyo -- will provide a timely springboard for Japan's 2019 World Cup preparations.
The Japan captain called on the World Cup hosts to reproduce that form in next month's Tests against Italy and Georgia after struggling since posting three wins at the 2015 tournament under Eddie Jones.
"It's important that everyone continues to pull in the same direction," Leitch told local media after a week after Japan marked 500 days until the World Cup.
"We have to keep the momentum going. We need to apply what we're doing in Super Rugby with the Japan team."
- Thorn's sharp rebuke for Reds -
Reds coach Brad Thorn was understandably livid after his side's capitulation to the Sunwolves -- the Japanese team's maiden win against an Australian side.
Thorn said it was particularly disappointing coming after the Reds' gutsy win over Golden Lions and urged his players to be consistent, regardless of the opposition.
"This game is not a hobby... you have to turn up mentally prepared because it's not an option to sort of turn up," he fumed.
"I thought we got exactly what we deserved, there was a lot of poor basic footy out there."
The former All Black warned the Queenslanders will be on the wrong end of another demolition if they show the same attitude in Wellington against the in-form Hurricanes on Friday.
- No change for carefree Crusaders -
Despite a shambolic first half-hour against the NSW Waratahs riddled with knock-ons, misplaced kicks and turnovers, the Canterbury Crusaders are not going to change their philosophy of playing expansive rugby.
The Waratahs feasted on the errors as they raced to a 29-0 lead before the Crusaders came back formidably to win 31-29.
Coach Scott Robertson said the Crusaders will not change their approach as they were always creating opportunities. "There was a little knock-on off a couple of line breaks, if we'd have taken them we might have scored but they scored," he said.
Flyhalf Richie Mo'unga saw only positives in chasing down the top Australian side. "For games in the future, if we're under the pump or under a bit of pressure we know we've come through it before," he said.
- Win or bust for Stormers -
Western Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says they can still reach the playoffs but every game now is a "must-win" after going down 15-9 to Waikato Chiefs, their first defeat in Cape Town this season.
Despite seven losses in 12 matches, the South Africans are just one point behind the Jaguares who hold the last finals berth.
"We have four league matches left and are still in it," insisted former Springboks centre Fleck, who coached Stormers to the 2016 and 2017 quarter-finals.
"It is a funny competition this year. No one is guaranteed anything yet and you have to fight for every point.
"For us, every game is a must-win from now, starting with the Sunwolves in Hong Kong this weekend. Each match will be like a quarter-final."
- Brumbies frozen out by fans -
As if crashing to their fourth straight loss wasn't bad enough for the ACT Brumbies, they did it on a frigid Canberra day and in front of one of their lowest ever crowds -- just 5,283.
The Brumbies were hoping to stay in contention for a sixth consecutive finals, but their hopes took a hit after they blew a 24-10 lead with 20 minutes to play against the Melbourne Rebels.
Coach Dan McKellar described the low turnout as "really sad" and said an indoor stadium was desperately needed.
"Our form is playing a part of that and I've got to front up and take ownership of that 100 percent," he said. "I want our boys playing in front of 15,000 people -- people I know care about them."
The Australian Capital Territory government has been investigating options to build an indoor stadium but so far nothing has come of it.
"The fact it was about three degrees and the wind chill took it even lower is never great," Brumbies chief executive Michael Thomson told reporters. "So an indoor stadium would help."
World Cup springboard: Sunwolves' flanker and Japan captain Michael Leitch