”Stiff-arm Sione” is the tag being handed to Sione Lauaki on his return to Pretoria and the Chiefs aren’t very happy with it.
They even appear to have an ally in Bulls coach Frans Ludeke who is keeping a stiff-upper lip on the previous misdemeanours of Lauaki, clearly preferring to let the Loftus faithfull and the local media make all the noise over the Chiefs’ big No 8. And you can be sure they will.
Duncan Johnstone writes for Stuff.co.nz that Lauaki will be in for a roasting from the volatile full house who will follow his every move, baying for some kind of belated justice to be dished out on the field in the Super 14 final – it’s that kind of place.
Not surprisingly Lauaki quickly became a hot topic as the Chiefs finally arrived in Pretoria for this weekend’s Super 14 final against the Bulls.
The last time he played the Bulls here he put a coat-hanger tackle on local hero Bryan Habana.
In all fairness it looked a shocker, upending and flattening Habana although it appeared to be a lazy tackle option rather than a malicious one. Lauaki copped a yellow card but no further punishment, escaping the judiciary on a technicality as no citing was made in the official 12-hour period.
That had Bulls fans seething at the time and it appears little has changed that attitude in the following five weeks.
The local paper had ”stiff-arm” blaring out in their mains sports headline overnight and went further in the article, describing him as ”a serial stiff-arm offender”. They believe he deserved a four-week ban claiming that would have removed him from the final.
They got their maths wrong there by a week and as it is Lauaki is fighting off a neck injury to make the title match.
But that won’t stop the locals cooking up a good story in the leadup to the final. Not that Ludeke was helping them with their beat-up.
”I have nothing to say. I don’t want to get involved in that. He was lucky, that’s all,” said Ludeke when questioned about Lauaki’s judicial escape.
After seeing the morning paper the Chiefs cleverly decided to front Lauaki to their first session with the local media before they opened their training at a Pretoria school. It was their way of getting the issue over and done with.
No prizes for guessing what the first question was and Lauaki fended it off with as much skill as he did the Hurricanes’ defence in scoring his impressive and crucial try last Friday that helped the Chiefs into their first final.
Ad Feedback ”What happened, happened in the past. I’ve learnt from it. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a new week, a finals week and I’m looking forward to it,” said Lauaki.
The Chiefs saw the article as premeditated and unnecessary – a bit like a high tackle actually.
The local scribe was reminded that the apparent lack of action against Lauaki was no fault of his, but rather that of the South African citing commissioner.
It was a small sideshow to get things under way a day after the Chiefs had to switch their Pretoria hotel en route to South Africa after they discovered they were double-booked with the Springboks at their original accommodation. Such are the trials and tribulations of touring the republic, especially when matches take on the significance of this week’s affair.
The thing is not to take the bait and the Chiefs have handled both situations soundly.
The real news around Lauaki was that the man who gives the Chiefs so much momentum looks set to feature in the final.
He was laughing, joking and fully involved running hard as the Chiefs got through a light-hearted but vigorous training session where they played soccer and touch football for about an hour to blow out a few cobwebs from their hurried and long trip here.
Asked if felt he would make kickoff he said: ”Yeah, I’m feeling good and looking forward to the week.”
He admitted the head knock and subsequent neck pain that forced him off after 52 minutes of the semifinal had concerned him
”It was a bit of a shock. I just blacked out and I can’t remember much. But I saw the replay and it was just poor technique I guess.”
Lauaki sensed the squad was in the right mindset for this massive occasion and had coped well with the travel.
”The main thing is our hearts are 100 percent ready for this week.”Tweet