Last week Toby Robson’s piece in the Dominion post was funny, this week it get’s even better.
Suspensions, injuries, babies – it’s all happening as the New Zealand teams look to push on from a mixed opening round of the Super 14. Here’s a guide to the state of the Kiwi franchises for round two.
In the news: Rodney So’oialo gets one week for standing on Phil Waugh’s head. Waugh gets nothing for slowing down the Hurricanes’ ball all night. Where’s the justice, folks?
Physio’s table: Andrew Hore (ankle)
The good: First round 2008: Lost 20-3 to the Waratahs, but went on to make the semifinals . . . work with me here, Canes fans.
The bad: New South Wales referee Stu Dickinson’s surname was shortened numerous times by the Westpac Stadium crowd after some dubious calls on Saturday night. Maybe neutral refs wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
In the news: Jerome Kaino has a baby girl – well, actually, his wife does – just in time for him to be able to join the team before their first match in South Africa. Coach Pat Lam emails Joe Rokocoko and Taniela Moa suggesting they give their expectant partners the hurry-up. They wisely hit delete, buy chocolates and flowers and go home.
Physio’s table: Rudi Wulf (broken wrist), Keven Mealamu (calf), Benson Stanley (hamstring), Ali Williams (back), Jay Williams (ankle).
The good: Tasesa Lavea and Jimmy Gopperth guide the ship home in Perth with assured efforts at No 10. Did I just use Lavea, Gopperth and assured in the same sentence?
The bad: Paul Williams’ Charlie Brown imitation when the Force appeared to use, well, The Force, to tip the ball off his kicking tee while he attempted a conversion. Half the squad are in Pretoria and half in Auckland. When Northland prop Francis Smith and Auckland halfback Grayson Hart are called up, you know you are into the backups and way too early in the season.
In the news: Stephen Donald uses the “ignore it and it will go away” philosophy after the first-up loss to the Crusaders, telling the local media after the match that the key to the season is making a winning start. It’s too late for that, but I like his positivity.
Physio’s table: None.
The good: Donald’s right, they actually did start OK, despite the loss.
The bad: Lelia Masaga’s crazy intercept pass into the hands of Crusaders second-five Tim Bateman. I know it’s just a phrase, but Masaga’s brain may actually have exploded.
In the news: Leon MacDonald gets all mixed up and injures a shoulder instead of his head in his comeback Super 14 match. Questions are raised when the fullback gets changed in the Chiefs shed after the match, but after building a block tower and spelling his name correctly he’s cleared of concussion.
Physio’s table: Leon MacDonald (head – whoops, no, shoulder), Brad Thorn (heel), Sean Maitland (hamstring)
The good: Centre Casey Laulala has set an early benchmark for hairstyles. It’s slightly too wavy to be the classic ‘fro, but it’s still Teamtalk’s Do of the Round. Colin Slade had a promising debut in the problem No 10 jersey.
The bad: Do of the Round? That sounds awful.
In the news: Reserve hooker Jason Rutledge scores the matchwinner with two minutes to play against the Brumbies. Oh, no sorry, it’s the Highlanders. They conceded a late drop goal, adding fuel to a local movement to have them renamed The Sadomachists. After all it is really becoming the House of Pain. Fetu Vainikolo is in more hot water.
Physio’s table: Jimmy Cowan (elbow), Jamie Mackintosh (knee)
The good: Craig Newby wasn’t there to give the aftermatch speech. That would have just been too much for last year’s grief- stricken captain.
The bad: Cowan prints out one of Newby’s aftermatch speeches from last year and reads it word for word and nobody notices, even when he refers to himself in the third person as Craig.
In the news: John Mitchell is rumoured to have given his halftime and post-game talks to the side via video-link after having face- to-face contact with players taken away from him following the pre-season review into his powers. Mitchell had accepted the condition, but was said to be upset that the players turned the sound off during his addresses. Another review is under way.
Pick of the bunch: The Waratahs were the best Aussie team with young centre Rob Horne catching the eye and first-five Kurtley Beale suggesting good things ahead. Special mention to commentator Phil Kearns, who has hit the ground running in 2009. “You could house a small village in those” was classic Kearns in reference to Blues halfback Taniela Moa’s calfs. Fans should also watch Brumbies first-five Christian Lealifano this season. His late, winning, drop goal against the Highlanders was no fluke.
SOUTH AFRICA WATCH
In the news: Sharks captain and Springbok hooker John Smit plays the final 20 minutes at loosehead prop as his side gets off to a start that suggests it will deliver on pre- season promise. Bulls captain Victor Matfield injured a shoulder midway through the second half of the Bulls’ 33-20 win over the Reds at Loftus.
Pick of the bunch: The Sharks and Stormers look like class acts in 2009, and did anyone else notice the 45,000-strong crowd in Cape Town? Super rugby’s alive and well in the republic. Believe it or not, the Lions and Cheetahs match also deserves some credit. It was played at breakneck speed, featured some great tries and had an exciting finish. From the same match – remember Andre Pretorius? The former Boks first five-eighth made his first appearance in over a year for the Lions – from the bench — and kicked a late drop goal.Tweet