Colin Cooper wasn’t sure whether it warranted being labelled a master stroke. But the Hurricanes’ coach’s benching of star All Blacks midfielder Ma’a Nonu after a mediocre opening match has proved a match-wining decision.
Rugbyheaven NZ reports that Nonu wasn’t happy with waiting half the game before making it on the field on Friday night, but once he was injected into the game against the Highlanders he made an immediate impact, setting up a couple of tries.
Master stroke? It looked like one. “If you’d read the local media you would not have [thought so],” said Cooper. “I made my position clear and I think everyone can now judge for themselves whether it worked or not.”
However, Cooper is optimistic his star midfielder will now flourish.
“He sets high standards. He wasn’t living up to them, or ours, but I now think we can put that behind us.”
Cooper the come-from-behind win will give his side just the lift they need before taking on their nemesis next weekend.
The Hurricanes make the trip to Christchurch on Friday night for a game that will stop the rugby-watching nation.
If the Wellington-based franchise is to be considered favourites for this year’s Super 14, it must overcome a Crusaders side that has continually had an advantage over them in recent years.
The Crusaders have won the last seven games between the two teams but a win on Friday will go a long way towards giving the Hurricanes the belief they can beat their South Island rivals if they meet in the playoffs.
Cooper knows it will be a big week leading into Friday’s game and says the way his side showed the killer instinct to see off the Highlanders will give the players a mental boost.
“The Highlanders game has given us confidence to go down there to the Crusaders and know things do work,” Cooper said.
“We’ve got to work on areas but we’re pretty excited. It will be an exciting week to go down to Christchurch.”
Although emotions will be running high, Cooper said he won’t be treating the game any different to other ones.
“We’ll play it pretty controlled,” he said. “Our discipline has been good in these last two games.
“We’re building through the games.”
With 10 minutes to go at the Cake Tin the Highlanders looked on course for a shock win over the Hurricanes, but late tries to Jason Eaton and Conrad Smith saw off the southern challenge and gave the Canes their first win of the season.
“We showed a lot of patience and composure to get the win,” Cooper said.
“I’m pretty pleased with that. The conditions were pretty tough.
“We probably kicked too much ball away. We tried to sort that out and keep the ball in hand more in the second half.
“We let in a couple of soft tries near the end. One was through a kick and one was through a mistake. But we came back with 10 minutes to go to get the win which was pretty good.”
Cory Jane’s injured ankle is the only concern for the Hurricanes and he’ll be monitored during the week before a decision is made on his availability for Friday’s game.
After the loss against the Waratahs in week one and some disappointing performances in the pre-season, it’s looking like Cooper has turned the corner with this year’s team.
“OK, we didn’t play how we know we can play but we’re building towards that and that was a positive sign for me,” Cooper said.
“I saw a lot of composure, particularly to come back from those points down. We kept hammering away against their defence which was outstanding.
“We admit we weren’t accurate enough with our kicking game in the first half.
“But we improved that in the second.”Tweet