AUCKLAND, NZ – Super Rugby’s back for another action-packed weekend, with one big NZ derby and trans-Tasman clash. If you’re just tuning in, the Hurricanes are still running the table even though they got to sit back and watch everyone kick the crap out of each other last weekend. The Brumbies are still the best out of Aussie despite gifting the Blues their maiden victory of the season and the Bulls head the South Africans after giving the Reds a drubbing in round nine. Before we check out another lot of dubious predictions (I was awful last week), let’s discuss what’s been happening off the field.
What was once something that NZ Rugby would laugh off has become a case for serious frowning of late. No, it’s not their appalling record of poor decision-making regarding sporting contact with apartheid South Africa being dredged up (it should), it’s the growing exodus of All Blacks post-RWC. Colin Slade has joined Dan Carter and Tom Taylor as the latest first five to need to go take a crash course in French, signing with Pau. This seems to be about one Beauden Barrett away from being a full blown crisis, but given that him and Aaron Cruden were most likely going to be the two battling it out for the All Black 10 jersey in the next few years anyway, it’s probably not as bad as it looks.
Another NZ player who’s decided he wants to trade in the blue and yellow kit he’s wearing for the Highlanders for one that comes with a much larger contract (ASM Clermont Auvergne, to be exact) is Waisake Naholo. Not that wing is a position that the All Blacks have had any trouble filling EVER, but it stinks for Highlanders fans as Naholo has been amazing this year. The likely story of his route overseas can probably be traced back to his dumping by the Blues, which probably made up his mind to get some decent exposure in this year’s comp and cash in when the French clubs came sniffing.
Meanwhile, the Wallabies haven’t had as much drama with their (only) first five Bernard Foley, who has signed on for another three years. However, the Aussies are a bit more generous with their contracts, allowing Foley to head up to Japan in the offseason and make some coin in their league.
Super Rugby Round 10 fixtures:
At AMI Stadium, Christchurch: Crusaders vs. Chiefs #CRUvCHI Prediction: Chiefs by 5
At Westpac Stadium, Wellington: Hurricanes vs. Waratahs #HURvWAR Prediction: Canes by 13
At Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin: Highlanders vs. Blues #HIGvBLU Prediction: Highlanders by 6
At GIO Stadium, Canberra: Brumbies vs. Rebels #BRUvREB Prediction: Brumbies by 18
At nib Stadium, Perth: Force vs. Stormers #FORvSTO Prediction: Stormers by 3
At Kings Park, Durban: Sharks vs. Bulls #SHAvBUL Prediction: Bulls by 8
At Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein: Cheetahs vs. Reds #CHEvRED Prediction: Cheetahs by 10
The plucky Lions get a week off to reflect on their Cinderella run so far. The conventional wisdom is that the Bulls will kick on and top the SA conference, meaning that the Lions will most probably end up being a thorn in the side of the other teams with playoff aspirations.
SBW and Charlie Ngatai make a return to the Chiefs midfield, which will be more than a handful for the Crusaders duo of Dan Carter and Kieron Fonotia.
All Black lock Jeremy Thrush will play his 100th Super Rugby game for the Hurricanes. He’s been a great servant to his home region and it’s fair to say Wellington has certainly loved having Thrush for all these years. Meanwhile flanker Ardie Savea will make a surprise return to the pitch after his injured finger took shorter than thought to heal.
All Black Sevens rep Akira Ioane gets his first taste of Super Rugby against the Highlanders, getting a start at flanker for the Blues. Ioane has been tipped for greatness from an early age, here he is showing his form in an impromptu French dwarf-tossing competition.
Brumbies halfback Nic White has paid the price for an ill-tempered display last Friday against the Blues, getting dropped for Michael Dowsett for their game against the Rebels. Hmm, wonder what would have happened if he’d landed that 80th minute penalty?
As usual, news out of South Africa is pretty slow this time of the week, so not much to report on their teams other than that the Bulls welcome back the heavyweight Springbok trio of Adriaan Strauss, Jan Serfontein and Handre Pollard (actually Strauss is probably the only one that deserves to be called a heavyweight).
Game of the Round:
Saturday afternoon rugby? Purists rejoice! Even though there’s actually no evidence at all to suggest that more tries are scored during the day than at night, an afternoon kickoff is still enough of an oddity in NZ Super Rugby that it’s worth rejoicing. The Canes will hopefully get a sunny day in Wellington when they look to deal to the Taqele Naiyaravaro-less Waratahs. Their fixture in 1996 produced possibly the greatest individual Super Rugby try ever, scored by the one and only Christian Cullen:
We’ve hit double digits in the Super Rugby rounds, so let’s hope the action hits an intensity level of 10 as well. Enjoy the footy!
That’s it for now! Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Audrey Youn, Akweley Okine, Rocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively.