Above: Ardie Savea with Isaia Walker-Leawere in support in last week’s win against the Stormer. PHOTO: Hugh Pretorius.
- By Kevin McCarthy
I don’t think anyone thinks the timing of the Hurricanes v Crusaders derby is ideal. No wonder the Kiwi sides are looking forward to the Super Rugby rejig and having to play each other far less often.
Presumably the vagaries of coordinating the current competition is why we end up with this match coming so close after Canes v Saders I.
It is what it is however and there’s plenty to chew over.
Crucially for the Hurricanes, can they exert some control over the match. The last couple of away drubbings at the hands of the Crusaders have largely been on their terms – able to play to their strengths and squeeze the life out of the Canes. Once that pattern has been cast, it’s been one way traffic.
The prognosis is not great on that score. We all know the forwards are struggling to be a force. The powder-puff tag is going too far, but if there isn’t a lift against the Crusaders, then it will be hard for the Canes obviously to make any running.
There’s a bit of grit in this side though, and if they can stick close on the scoreboard, then that will build pressure on the Crusaders. The Canes do have a formidable home record now, and won’t relinquish that without a fight.
The Waratahs last week kept the screws on the Crusaders, with strong defence and deft kicking. The Canes may well need to try to replicate that. The temptation is to try to blitz with the backs but is that really how you beat the Crusaders?
And obviously both sides are going to be welcoming back some marquee players. The key may be in who of those makes the biggest impact.
As for impact, can Ardie Savea keep on his one-man incredible hulk routine? If anyone deserves a rest soon, it’s him.
In the bigger scheme of things, the outcome of this game will obviously propel one side into first place clearly on the NZ conference. That the Hurricanes are actually joint leaders is definitely flattering to them, but they’ve grunted their way to date through the challenges of a big injury toll, and the All Black rest policy.
And this is still very early on in the season – and I’ve just got a gut feeling that there are going to be a few upsets for everyone. I can’t for example, see any New Zealand side running through the rest of the comp unbeaten – including the early front-runners.
England seem to have put the kaibosh on the proposed global rugby championship. It’s easy to ridicule the headline reason, which was that relegation would have catastrophic consequences for English rugby.
Of course, so would a meteor strike south of London. In other words, what odds are there that England would ever actually be relegated.
It’s a much more valid fear of course for two other refuseniks, Scotland and Italy.
It may well be a blessing that the plan is not going to work as currently thought out.
Unfortunately, where does that leave rugby globally? If it’s all going to be about the self-interest of the big fish, then it’s hard to be optimistic that any deal can be struck.
I loved the 90s theme for last weekend’s game. A great chance to trawl the memory banks and make calls on the past greats.
My partner is not a rugby follower, but when I mentioned it to her, she said what about that ginger haired guy.
I said, Paul Tito aka the Fish?
Yes. But of course when I checked back, the Legend of the Fish began at the Hurricanes in the year 2000.
I know what she means though. Who can forget the Fish. He incidentally now is off to Pau in France as a coach, after last working with Taranaki at provincial level.
Forwards Vaea Fifita and Ricky Riccitelli will make their 50th Hurricanes appearances in Friday night’s New Zealand derby showdown against the two-time defending Super Rugby champion Crusaders.
The pair have been named to start the match at Westpac Stadium in a largely unchanged side from the one which defeated the Stormers last round.
Senior players TJ Perenara and Ngani Laumape return to the Hurricanes starting XV after they missed the Stormers match.
They are the only changes Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree has made although there is one positional shift which sees Jordie Barrett move from the midfield to the right wing in place of Wes Goosen who rides the pine.
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