11 Mar 2019

Super Rugby: Week four breakdown

10:08 am on 11 March 2019

Opinion - Fear not Chiefs fans, things are about to get a lot better. Yes, your team might be 0-4 to start the Super Rugby season, but we begin this week's wrap with a fearless prediction.

Damian McKenzie is caught in a tackle against the Crusaders.

Damian McKenzie is tackled by Whetukamokamo Douglas in the Chiefs vs Crusaders match in Christchurch on the weekend. Photo: Photosport

Chiefs to beat Canes

You read it here first. Never mind the 57-28 towelling the Chiefs copped from the Crusaders, they're going to go back to Hamilton and win this Friday night.

Such are the Hurricanes' problems at scrum time that the Chiefs can, provided Damian McKenzie doesn't do anything mad, definitely end that winless run.

A lot rests with Aidan Ross at loosehead prop but, provided he scrums okay, then the one-two punch on the tighthead side of Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta'avao should ensure the Chiefs hold sway in the set piece.

Just on McKenzie

It's early days, sure, but how comfortable would you feel with McKenzie starting for New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup?

We all know you have to take the good with the bad where the playmaker is concerned but, for the time being at least, he appears a liability.

Few players are more brilliant than McKenzie, but Chiefs coach Colin Cooper must surely wish the first five-eighth could concentrate on just doing the simple things well.

The insanity continues

The Hurricanes' pack bristles at criticism. Write about them being dominated at scrum time and they suddenly turn very shirty. And that's great. Way to go guys. But how about just scrummaging better?

It's a kind of madness that the team keep rolling out the same personnel, keep saying that they're working hard with the scrum coach and yet keep getting pushed around. It's cost them games in the past and will do again.

TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett and Ngani Laumape have become adept at making use of backfoot-ball, but they're not miracle workers. As we've seen against opponents such as the Crusaders.

Three cheers for the Highlanders

Many pundits had the Highlanders struggling this season, maybe even finishing last in the New Zealand conference. So much for that prediction.

The Highlanders, as they've always been in recent seasons, are just so brave, so abrasive, so relentless. No, they don't boast a bevy of big names big names, but they do have a willingness to play for each other that few teams can match.

Jordie Barrett in action for the Hurricanes.

The Highlanders just fell short against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday. Photo: Photosport

They needn't be discouraged by Friday's 25-22 loss to the Hurricanes and don't write them off against the Crusaders this week either.

It did finish Highlanders 25 Crusaders 17 in the corresponding game last year, after all.

As for the Crusaders

They continue to be all class. Playing in the sunshine helped make for a good spectacle, but their skill level and intent were still superb.

And, as has been the case almost all season, they are again our team of the week.

Finally a win for the Blues

Good to see them get home, 28-20 against the Sunwolves.

Neither team are very good, but you couldn't fault their respective efforts.

Blues Rieko Ioane celebrates after another try during the Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Sunwolves in Auckland.

Reiko Ioane celebrates scoring a try against the Sunwolves. Photo: Photosport

The best thing about the match was probably Sonny Bill Williams' prominence.

As for Rieko Ioane, just because you jog in for a few tries with virtually no defenders to beat, doesn't mean you've played a blinder. Man we're superficial sometimes.

All Blacks bolter-watch

Jackson Hemopo didn't quite make the international strides anticipated in 2018.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen talked the blindside flanker up, then didn't take him on the end-of-year tour to Europe.

But the New Zealand No.6 jumper remains well and truly up for grabs and week after week Hemopo shows he should be considered for it.

There's not the bullocking runs associated with rivals such as Vaea Fifita and Shannon Frizell, but Hemopo has a work-rate and toughness that others sometimes struggle to match.

Week 4 NZ Form XV

Will Jordan (Crusaders)

Sevu Reece (Crusaders)

Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)

Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)

Tevita Li (Highlanders)

Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)

TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)

Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

James Lentjes (Highlanders)

Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders)

Josh Dickson (Highlanders)

Scott Barrett (Crusaders)

Nepo Laulala (Chiefs)

Dane Coles (Hurricanes)

Ayden Johnstone (Highlanders)

*Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.