The Asian side have lost all five of their fixtures, but picked up three losing bonus points and the former All Black hooker said that showed a competitive edge that even he had doubted prior to their debut campaign.
“If you had asked me before I took the role where we would be at this stage, I don't think I would have said we would be in this position with three bonus points and two games that we probably should have won. They have exceeded expectations,” Hammett told Reuters in an interview.
He admits, though, with the World Cup three years away, the coming seasons are important in not just creating a team that can be competitive, but one that wins matches.
“Not so much in this first year, but I believe there should be that expectation. For Japan rugby to go well, the Sunwolves need to be successful,” he said, adding there was no points target this season.
Having got together just three weeks before the season started, Hammett admitted the players were still finding their cohesion on the pitch ahead of Friday's clash at Newlands against the Stormers.
“We are a brand new team, we've got a mix of languages, so it is always a challenge to get total clarity from everyone. Sometimes it is a bit of a guess. But we are improving each week,” he said.
“One of our biggest challenges is around transitional play and being able to play things when we are out of structure. As a society, the Japanese like to be quite structured in how they do things.
“Sometimes that comes into our game, but I have been impressed with how the boys have embraced what we call 'unstructured training' to develop that.”
Hammett felt the overall improvement in Japanese rugby, evidenced by their successful World Cup in England last year that included victories over South Africa, Samoa and the United States, was exciting.
“There are a lot of very good coaches in Japan now, so a lot of these players are learning new skills and ways of playing the game,” he said.
“Rugby has really got popular in Japan. Even two years ago you would walk around and not many people would recognise you in the street. Now you get stopped quite regularly. There is a real positive feeling about the game.” – Reuters
Original source: Coach happy with Sunwolves’ progress