Japan's Super Rugby side the Sunwolves will be looking to put quality ahead of quantity both on and off the field as they head into their third season, which is set to kick off on Feb. 24, 2018.
Having been given the all clear by SANZAAR -- the body that runs Southern Hemisphere rugby -- to remain in business until at least 2020, when Super Rugby's current broadcast deal expires, informed sources have told Kyodo News that the side still needs to meet certain annual Key Performance Indicators, both in the way the team operates off the field and plays on it.
But a restructuring in the way the team will be run, an increased playing budget, a smaller squad and a much-reduced travel schedule should, it is hoped, see the team become more competitive.
Following their opening two seasons in which they won just three games, drew one and lost 26, many felt the Sunwolves were lucky to survive Super Rugby's recent cull that saw the Cheetahs and Kings from South Africa and Australia's Western Force cut from the competition.
Failure to fulfill the promises made by the Sunwolves before entering the competition -- that they would be coached by Eddie Jones, with a number of big name overseas stars joining Japan's top players -- meant the side was treading on thin ice.
But the sources have told Kyodo News a compromise has been reached that will allow SANZAAR to have more direct involvement with running the Japan Super Rugby Association.
It is understood a member of SANZAAR will now sit on the Sunwolves committee, which is set for some serious structural reform as it recruits "rugby specific people who know what success is."
Jamie Joseph, head coach of the Japan national team and a Super Rugby winner in 2015 with the Highlanders, will have a far more hands-on role with the side, with Tony Brown and Filo Tiatia helping the former All Black and Japan international run the team.
A doubling of the player budget will allow the team to recruit some marquee players from overseas and it is expected four world-class players will put pen to paper in the coming weeks.
With player management one of Jospeh and Tiatia's main concerns, the Sunwolves used 56 players in their second season.
That number will be cut to 40 next season, as the Sunwolves look to further their agreements with Top League sides to ensure players are not overworked.
With the Sunwolves moving from the South Africa conference to the Australia group as a result of the competition now featuring 15 teams, the side will also see their travel schedule cut drastically.
Last season the team flew close to 120,000 kilometers, double the travel of any other side in the competition.
While it is, at this stage, expected that the Sunwolves will still play three "home" games in Singapore, the team will be spending much less time in the air, with one two-week trip to New Zealand and one two-week trip to South Africa on the cards, as well as two two-week sojourns to Australia.
"We will still have to meet the KPIs," one of the sources said. "But the participation agreement now means we are in a much better place heading to 2020."