– By Kevin McCarthy
It’s almost like déjà vu all over again, with the Canes again coming up against the Crusaders early in Super rugby.
Last season, it was round 3. The Canes had a first up loss to the Bulls away, a win against the Jaguares away, and then back home to host the Southerners.
At the time I made the crazy call that the Canes would win. Lo, and behold, they did 29-19.
It wasn’t exactly downhill after that, but when it came to the trying to best the Crusaders, that was as good as it got.
I’m not going to make a crazy call this time. Playing away, I can’t see the Hurricanes logically winning this weekend, especially with no Beaudy yet.
It just feels a game too soon for the side, and while every side is still rusty, you kind of back the Crusaders to play sensibly enough to bag the points.
As for last week’s great escape, well, I can’t feel sorry for the Waratahs. The Canes meanwhile stuck it out, and hung in there long enough to take it out. Winning ugly is fine, as long as it’s not a habit.
I think expectations for the side are a bit dialed back this season, and that’s no bad thing. What exactly will this team look and play like when it finds its feet under John Plumtree – that’s the mystery.
How great to see Ardie Savea bursting out the blocks though. Makes you fear for him peaking too soon – he’s our X Factor up front, and the Canes need to manage his game time.
I visited Toulon a few years ago. Stayed at a hotel where the young Napoleon apparently hung his greatcoat. It’s a nice city, and at the time, they had a love affair with none other than Tana Umaga.
Tana was playing there for a bit, and you could even pick up book featuring pretty much pictures of Tana looking at things. Or meeting people. Just being Tana really.
I guess there won’t be a Julian Savea sequel.
The charming Mourad Boudjellal should have thought a few times before signing up the Bus, rather than watching the 2015 world cup highlights reel. It’s called due diligence, and there’s a reason that the winger first slipped out of the All Blacks and then the Hurricanes.
In short, he’s been on a slide that no amount of good intentions and effort has been able to arrest.
When it comes to wingers, who have a short shelf life anyway at the very top, it seems to be a one way path.
I guess if you are going to throw that sort of money at players, then you will have some expectations. But his ways of motivating leave a lot to be desired.
Here’s hoping Julian can turn around his season, but it’s a salutary lesson in the downside of that south of France option.
As for the next winger off the cab rank, Nehe Milner-Skudder is heading to Toulon. Has Boudjellal done his due diligence again? Like Napoleon invading Russia, almost certainly not.
Nehe at his peak is a great sight. But he’s also cruelly afflicted with injuries that have cut short his All Black and Hurricanes career.
If you were expecting him to turn out for a full uninterrupted season at Toulon, you’d have to be wildly optimistic. Watch this space.
Hurricanes team to play the Crusaders:
Dane Coles returns to the starting XV for the first time since 2017 – great.
Ardie Savea not playing. Beauden Barrett not playing. TJ Perenara on the bench. Ngani Laumape on the bench. Not cool.
If interest is still high watching less than full strength teams for the return of this blockbuster New Zealand derby than fine. But if players are being rested this year for higher teams then the All Blacks better win the Rugby World Cup. Fans live at the grounds and subscribing to Sky TV deserve to see the best players every week. Otherwise teams could default some matches and give all their players a rest at the same time.
The Hurricanes team is:
15 Jordie Barrett
14 Wes Goosen
13 Matt Proctor
12 Vince Aso
11 Ben Lam
10 Fletcher Smith
9 Finlay Christie
8 Gareth Evans
7 Du’Plessis Kirifi
6 Reed Prinsep
5 Liam Mitchell
4 James Blackwell
3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen
2 Dane Coles
1 Chris Eves
16 Ricky Riccitelli
17 Xavier Numia
18 Ben May
19 Isaia Walker-Leawere
20 Sam Henwood
21 TJ Perenara
22 Jackson Garden-Bachop
23 Ngani Laumape