The prospect of Rodney So’oialo playing in Saturday’s Super 14 rugby semifinal against the Crusaders is dimming as long-time comrade Jerry Collins today called for the Hurricanes to win him a spot in the final.
Report courtesy www.rugbyheaven.co.nz.
All Blacks No 8 and Hurricanes captain So’oialo was an agitated spectator at training in Wellington on Wednesday, nursing bruised ribs.
He still suffers discomfort when running but was hoping that a fitness test close to kickoff in Christchurch will prove his readiness.
“I’m like a little kid who wants to play with all his mates instead of sitting at home,” he said.
“I’m obviously not 100 percent. It’s getting better every day and it’s looking a lot better now than it was on Friday.
“I’ll be pushing to try to get on the field. I’m one of those players who doesn’t want to miss any game.”
So’oialo suffered the knock during last Friday’s 17-19 loss to the Blues in Auckland. He played on although regretted it later.
“It was painful but at that stage I wanted to put it out for the boys.”
Chris Masoe ran at No 8, with the speedy Scott Waldrom training on the openside flank where he excelled in several games this season while Collins was sidelined, also with bruised ribs.
The All Blacks combination of So’oialo, Collins and Masoe was reunited after a month apart last weekend but there is serious doubt that “the bouncers”, as they are known, will combine to face a likely Crusaders combination of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Mose Tuiali’i.
Collins has admired Waldrom’s output this season but said neither he nor Masoe should try to emulate the non-stop, combative style of So’oialo if the skipper is ruled out.
“Don’t try to be anyone else, you can’t play like Rodders but you do the best you can,” Collins told NZPA.
“We just have to get out there and buy him another week. That’s our main goal, to get him to the final.
“Rodders has to do what’s best for his body and everyone in the team appreciates that.”
Piri Weepu was also confined to spectator duties on Wednesday courtesy of a strained hamstring, with Alby Mathewson running in his place. However, Weepu is regarded as a likely starter.
A more interesting sight was that of Tim Fairbrother training at tighthead prop rather than All Black Neemia Tialata.
Tialata, whose form has been erratic this season, missed the Blues match while serving a one-match suspension.
In his place, Fairbrother was more than commendable against destructive Blues loosehead Tony Woodcock.
So’oialo was heartened by the improved depth in his squad this season.
“We’ve certainly got the players who can do it. Now it’s a matter of going out there and wanting it a little bit more than the Crusaders,” he said.
Former All Blacks fullback Christian Cullen called on the Hurricanes to adopt a more attacking attitude than during their 13-20 mid-season loss to the Crusaders in Wellington.
So’oialo agreed but said that could only be achieved through a structured approach.
“Maintaining the ball is a biggie in this type of rugby. If you have the ball you get more opportunities to run.”
Veteran Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald had played his opponents enough times to know the attacking threat they possess.
A couple of weeks after their match, the Hurricanes shifted the line-busting wing Ma’a Nonu to second five-eighth, a move MacDonald believes made them more multi-dimensional.
“They’ve got tons of talent. Ma’a's found his niche at second five and has been just dangerous,” MacDonald said.
“You’ve got the skills of (centre) Conrad Smith outside him and they’ve got a lethal back three.
“It’s going to be a fascinating game and it’s the old adage that it’s got to be done up front and that will dictate where the game goes.”
Both teams were to be named on ThursdayTweet