Friday, February 20, 2009

2009 Super 14 Week 2 Preview

Hurricanes v Highlanders

The Hurricanes struggled last week, despite looking the business on paper. Retaining possession simply has to be a key focus for them this weekend. Meanwhile, the Highlanders got off to the perfect start to the game, before minor errors and a lack of playing maturity cost them - a situation many of the senior members will be familiar with after last year. The Highlanders nosedived in a big way once Cowan and Mackintosh went off the field last week and the same should be true this week.

One to Watch:

Two actually. Shoemark is who the Highlanders have been needing for a few years, but can he do the job without Cowan? Meanwhile Victor Vito, who had a solid Air NZ Cup season, debuts in the Number 8. I hope he doesn't become the new loose-trio whipping boy.


Waratahs v Chiefs

These two teams both always seem to start the season off with a flourish. For the 'Tahs the season becomes about consistency after about Week 4, while the Chiefs disappear from the radar about then due to injuries. Unfortunately for the Ian Foster coached Chiefs, they've been affected by injuries already, while the boys from NSW are at home and at full strength.

One to Watch:

Timana Tahu. After a decidedly average debut 2008 season, he's gonna need to prove himself against the promising Tom Carter and Rob Horne.


Force v Cheetahs

The Cheetahs play a very fast, fluid style of rugby, while the Force, through John Mitchell's influence, are a percentage-based team, full of technical overlaps. The Cheetahs are a team I don't really like to write off and the Force blew it all last weekend, but the WA boys should be too much for the South Africans.

One to Watch:

Falie Oelschig. A typically underrated South African, he is a very capable defensive kicker and has a great pass.


Stormers v Reds

The Reds have a habit of talking themselves up over the off-season, while the Stormers seem to be more of the strong silent type, rolling into town, kicking ass, then departing. Expect to see that at their home ground this weekend.

One to Watch:

Scott Higginbotham, a boy the Reds have highlighted as a future Wallaby. For good reason too, he's a promising backrower.


Brumbies v Crusaders


The Crusaders looked very, very shaky in their first game against the Chiefs, committing a high amount of handling errors and struggling to keep up with the pace of the game. Meanwhile, the Brumbies were rattled by the Highlanders in the first 20 before getting into their stride, before almost losing the match in the last ten. This match is made all the harder to pick with the injuries announced by the Cru' during the week, but the Brumbies do look class and tend to settle into their season quickly.

One to Watch:

Casey Laulala. Had a good performance in the first match and is set to dominate the Crusaders midfield without Carter and Brett interfering anymore.


Bulls v Blues

Another close one, but the Bulls did look a lot more stable this season without all the off-field controversy. The Blues are now coached by a decidedly average [decided by me] tactician, Pat Lam.

One to Watch:

Bryan Habana. He's simply the best player in world rugby on both defense and offense.


Sharks v Lions

An easy match to pick. The Sharks will definately make this year's playoffs and if injuries are in their favour, which they tend to be, they should be in the final. The Lions meanwhile will hold a street parade if they crack the top 10.

One to Watch:

All of the Sharks are future Springboks, if not already.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why the NZRU should not go to Denver

As was reported while I was on holiday, it appears that Denver is pushing for the long-discussed, never-realised All Blacks match in the US. Over the past two years this has been linked to New York, Chicago, Boston and now Denver.

Well of these places, it most certainly shouldn't go to Chicago or Denver.

Denver has a huge basketball and football college fraternity. Going off anecdotal evidence from an ex-American flatmate of mine, it will be very, very hard to tap into that market. Rugby Union enjoys a small following in the Denver area, and Carl Hayman's long lost brother also lives there, but I think simply running over to Mile High Stadium and hosting a match between two countries that they think are joined together is a dumb idea.

Instead, I would like to see the ARU and NZRU each send an Under-20 or Under-23 team, maybe even a combined Oceania XV, and have them go on a college tour. UCLA have a huge team, as does the University of Connecticut. The UCSC Slugs would be keen for a match I imagine and having seen the BRFC play, I imagine some Air NZ Cup teams would struggle in a match against them, let alone any youth team.

The costs would be a lot lower than sending NZRU contracted players over too, I'd imagine. Heard of billeting? Yeah, I thought so. Oh and you've got a much higher chance of getting a crowd to an eventual All Blacks, Springboks, Wallabies, Welsh, whoever match by getting the kids talking to their parents about it [Imagine 'Hey dayad, I played rogbay agenst some noo zealenderz today. Man, they're fayast'... Ok that was New York, but near enough to Boston.] than just showing up with posters reading 'OMG EXTRAVAGANZA LOLZ COME SEE TWO OF THE BEST TEAMS IN THE WORLD PLAY A SPORT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND'.

Although, it's not like I expect either union to lose money from the venture. If there's something Steve Tew does exceptionally, it is run a business. If anything goes ahead, I expect the USRU will have agreed to pay a lump sum to the ARU and NZRU, with the USRU allowed to keep a percentage of the gate takings. Because it would be a very optimistic or stupid person who decided to expand their sport to other countries without thinking about possible financial repercussions when the fans in that country didn't start rolling up. [Please refer to Exhibit A]


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cah Crash Chooseday