November 5, 2009 The New Zealand Wheelchair Rugby team will face its first serious challenge when it takes on Japan tomorrow afternoon in the IWAS Wheelchair Rugby Asia Oceania Zone Championships at Christchurch’s Pioneer Stadium.
November 5, 2009
Japan looms as challenge for Wheel Blacks
The New Zealand Wheelchair Rugby team will face its first serious challenge when it takes on Japan tomorrow afternoon in the IWAS Wheelchair Rugby Asia Oceania Zone Championships at Christchurch’s Pioneer Stadium.
Having had another easy victory 64 – 35 against Korea today to go with the 51-17 win over South Africa yesterday, the Wheel Blacks know that tomorrow will be a step up in competition.
Coach Greg Mitchell said that Japan has never beaten New Zealand, but there have been a couple of games where the margin has only been one point.
“ This is a record we want to keep in place. Even though Japan does not have two of their three top scorers from the Beijing Olympics, they will be a strong combination. They are a very agile team with a lot of speed and the ability to turn sharply. In Shin Shimakawa and Shin Nakazato they have two very good players,” he said.
Japan showed why they will be a threat with a 64-23 win over over South Africa this morning and then a heart-stopping 49-48 loss to a full strength Australia this afternoon. Australia did not play its ace, Ryley Batt, yesterday as he had a thumb injury, but the No. 1 seeds had a full line-up for this game.
Australia led 27-26 at half time, pulled out to 37-34 at three-quarter time and then had to withstand the determined finish from Japan.
Mitchell said that today’s Wheel Blacks match against Korea was messy. “It was good in the fact that we gave our new players plenty of court time with Chris Lay again stepping up. Tomorrow, our combinations will have to be stronger,” he said.
Japan is a growing force in wheelchair rugby, spurred by its big player base and support structure. The support crew for the Japanese team in Christchurch is actually bigger than the playing team.
There are three matches tomorrow at Pioneer Stadium are:
11.00am South Africa v Korea
1.00pm New Zealand v Japan
3.00pm Australia v South Africa