19 Mar 2019

Super Rugby: week five breakdown

3:26 pm on 19 March 2019

Opinion - You could make a strong case for all of this week's Super Rugby games being cancelled. In the end, it was just the Highlanders and Crusaders who sat the round out. Not that the games that took place really mattered, Hamish Bidwell says.

No caption

Should the Crusaders change their name? Not in haste, says Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Supplied: Crusaders

What's in a name?

This isn't the time for grandstanding.

Fifty people have died in Christchurch. There have been no funerals. The events of Friday remain so vivid that shock is still the prevailing emotion.

People still need to grieve and reflect and yet here are some folk, presumably looking to make a name for themselves, who suggest the Crusaders have to ditch their name.

Maybe, but not in haste.

The people of Christchurch have been through so much in recent years, let's let them mourn the dead before we demand a rugby team gets a new registered trademark.

A team must play on

Spare a thought for the Crusaders players, many of whom remain from the 2011 side.

The team made the final that year, despite not playing a single game in Christchurch following the earthquake that devastated their city.

Home games were played as far afield as London, as the team - united in grief and fear, in the wake of 185 deaths and the continued aftershocks - summoned unbelievable strength to play on for their heartbroken people.

As they did eight years ago, men such as Matt Todd, Luke Romano, Ryan Crotty and Owen Franks will have to kiss their loved ones goodbye and fly off to play footy.

It might be the last thing the players feel like, but the normality of Saturday's clash with the Waratahs in Sydney will be appreciated by fans.

The comfort of irrelevance

It was nice to see the Chiefs and Hurricanes play on Friday night. The same with the rugby league games from Australia later that evening.

The results were neither here nor there, but the matches at least provided a distraction. Sport's good like that.

Given this is a rugby column

You have to acknowledge the performance of Damian McKenzie, as the Chiefs drew 23-23 with the Hurricanes.

Labelled a liability, following some poor performances at first five-eighth, McKenzie looked far more comfortable at fullback.

The extra time and space enabled him to play what he saw, rather than worry about having to run the show.

McKenzie finished last season as the All Blacks' preferred fullback, but you suspect his best position lies on the bench.

As for the Hurricanes

A good team would have beaten the Chiefs on Friday. Heck, maybe even a bad one, given the Sunwolves have already won in Hamilton this season.

You admire the way forwards such as James Blackwell and Ardie Savea battle away for the Hurricanes and are encouraged by Dane Coles' return to active duty.

But, as a collective, the Hurricanes pack continue to be dominated and the side are playing unconvincing footy as a result.

If you think about how their games against the Waratahs and Highlanders were won, the Hurricanes are pretty lucky to have 15 points after five rounds.

Given only the Chiefs and Hurricanes played, a combined XV feels like a bit of a nonsense.

However, there are three players who still rate a mention from those sides.

Chiefs' second five-eighth Anton Lienert-Brown is having a very fine season. Hurricanes' opposite Ngani Laumape's barnstorming performances have generated more headlines and highlights, but that doesn't diminish what Lienert-Brown is doing.

He's just such an accurate, smart and skillful player and looks increasingly ready to assume Ryan Crotty's mantle.

Elsewhere, the form of Hurricanes' fullback Chase Tiatia has been a shock. At some point you assume defences will wise up to him but, for the time being, the relatively unheralded Hutt Old Boys Marist man is carving up.

The same can't be said for fellow Hurricane Jordie Barrett, though. After such a convincing outing on the wing for the All Blacks against Italy late last year, Barrett has looked a little out of place there in Super Rugby.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.