Above: Beauden Barrett kicks for goal against the Lions in 2018. PHOTO: Hugh Pretorius.
- By Kevin McCarthy
Just another dull week in Wellington rugby – rock and roll on the field, drugs somewhere off it, and I’m pretty sure, there was sex somewhere too.
Let’s stick to rugby shall we. Nothing much has changed equation wise for the Canes after last weekend’s excellent win over the Sharks. The Jaguares continue to keep the pressure up three points back on the table – so drop a game now and it is real sqeauky bum time.
Technically, the Rebels, Lions, and Bulls could all sneak through to claim fourth if the Canes have a meltdown.
Well, the Rebels are surely going to be snotted by an embarrassed Crusaders this weekend – and the Bulls would have to overcome the Highlanders, who have their season on the line.
So pretty simple equation, beat the Lions in South Africa and eliminate one more challenge.
Plenty of interest therefore as well in whether the Sharks can travel away and take down the Jaguares. I’m picking they won’t.
On the face of it, the Canes shouldn’t fear the Lions this season but every match in the Republic surely reminds us that there are no dead certs on the road there.
It’s good that the run-in is still tricky and keeps the side on their toes. You get the feeling that the Crusader have been a little guilty, thanks to their early dominance, of going walkabout in recent games. They’ll rectify that no doubt.
The Canes of course aren’t without troubles. Vaea Fifita’s three match suspension seems harsh, but suck it up At least he’ll be rested WHEN we make the semis.
Matt Proctor’s injury is more of a worry of course. A rejigged backline is never good and the Canes haven’t played their best under such circumstances this year. Please, please, don’t plug midfield with Jordie though [editor’s note – request denied, see team named after filing below].
On the plus side, Gareth Evans and Dane Coles are back in the mix. Maybe that much maligned pack is going to surprise to the upside in the closing games.
So Sonny Bill Williams is down again with injury. Yet he is apparently a lock and load for the World Cup.
Perhaps nature and time are trying to tell Steve Hansen something. I pray there isn’t a plan to take a slightly crocked SBW to Japan regardless and work through the consequences then. That’s the stuff of nightmare from previous world cups.
I confess to bias though. The All Blacks need Ngani Laumape on that plane from the get go, surely.
Well done Steve Tew. Rugby administrators are often cursed with the derogatory term of fish-heads, but the departing NZR CEO is leaving a shop in good shape. Strong finances and still, at least for now, holding the line on player retention.
On the other hand, you wonder what rugby landscape will face his successor as the turmoil over the global structure plays out and the cost and player drain pressures continue.
It won’t be the most interesting or argued about selection of 2020 but it will be the most critical.
The Hurricanes star inside back pairing of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett will reach a special mark when they run on to face the Lions in the round 17 Investec Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Sunday (NZ time).
The match will be the 100th time the pair have combined at halfback and first five-eighth for the Hurricanes since their first match together in 2012.
The pair, who have both played 123 times for the Hurricanes, have forged a formidable partnership in that time as Barrett has gone on to become the club’s leading points scorer (1223) of all time while Perenara has scored 52 tries, the most by any halfback in Super Rugby history.
Kick-off at Ellis Park is 1.05am, Sunday (NZ time).
The Hurricanes squad to face the Lions is:
15 James Marshall
14 Ben Lam
13 Jordie Barrett
12 Ngani Laumape
11 Chase Tiatia
10 Beauden Barrett
9 TJ Perenara (c)
8 Gareth Evans
7 Du’Plessis Kirifi
6 Reed Prinsep
5 Isaia Walker-Leawere
4 James Blackwell
3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen
2 Ricky Riccitelli
1 Toby Smith
16 Dane Coles
17 Fraser Armstrong
18 Ross Geldenhuys
19 Liam Mitchell
20 Ardie Savea
21 Richard Judd
22 Peter Umaga-Jensen
23 Salesi Rayasi