30 Mar 2019

Super Rugby is insulting the fans - Bidwell

8:41 am on 30 March 2019

Opinion - It started with a simple enough question.

Jordie Barrett in action for the Hurricanes.

All Blacks like Jordie Barrett are being forced to have rest periods from Super Rugby, making it a bore to watch, according to Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Photosport

"How do you think Ngani Laumape will go tonight, dad?''

"He's not playing.''

"Why not? What about Colesy?''

"No, he's not playing either."


"No, he's resting too. They have to have a few games off to get ready for the All Blacks' season.''

"But that's ages away."

"I know, but they need to have these rests so they can play well when the world cup's on.''

"But don't they have contracts? Why do they sign them if they don't want to play? Don't you have to play if you sign a contract?''

"It's complicated mate.''

"How come Cameron Smith and the Melbourne Storm's good players all played last night? They don't miss games.''

"Um, look mate ...''

Rugby would be nothing without all the posturing about competition formats or lectures about how player X has had his allotted minutes for the month.

Here's a tip; stop selling people an inferior product. Maybe then they'll happily pay to watch it. As it is, this Super Rugby season doesn't look quite so stellar now the NRL's on the next channel.

Sure, the off-field behaviour of various rugby league players is disgraceful, but at least the rest of them aren't obliged to take rest weeks.

Never mind this year's Rugby World Cup or the proposed Nations Championship, let's start getting rugby's elite players on the park.

To go back to the top, the Hurricanes blew hot and cold without Laumape, Dane Coles and TJ Perenara against the Stormers last week. They hung on to win, but it was a poor spectacle.

The Crusaders were next up that night, minus two of their best players. No, there was nothing wrong with Scott Barrett or Richie Mo'unga, they'd just exceeded their permitted game-time.

Their absence wasn't the sole reason the Crusaders lost, but it hardly helped.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read made his first appearance of the season last night.

That's been offset elsewhere by a spell for Chiefs skipper Brodie Retallick.

Hurricanes captain Dane Coles would like to be playing, but can't.

No, after being kept on ice last week, he returned to training and tweaked a calf muscle. So much for the rest and recuperation. Maybe he should've been allowed to keep playing?

Team-mate Jordie Barrett is allowed to play, but not where he'd like to.

Brodie Retallick looking glum playing for the Chiefs.

Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick is facing a forced rest this week in preparation for the World Cup later this year. Photo: Photosport

Now, his situation is slightly complicated by the good form at fullback of Chase Tiatia and continued absence of Nehe Milner-Skudder, but Barrett was originally shunted to the wing to accommodate the All Blacks' desire to see him there.

He's since said he'd much rather play at fullback or second five-eighth.

Never mind, higher powers prevail here, just as they do with so much that occurs during the Super Rugby season. Even an eight-year-old can see we're all being sold a pup.

All you can say is that Steve Hansen and the All Blacks better win the world cup, because rugby fans are being asked to forgive quite a lot in the meantime.

But that's rugby for you, where a 'we know best' attitude abounds.

It even extends to players, with Perenara taking issue with critics of the Hurricanes' forward pack this week.

The team have not done well at scrum or lineout time this season, which hasn't been lost on opponents.

Solomone Kata celebrates his try during the Vodafone Warriors ' win over the Canterbury Bulldogs.

NRL stars like Solomone Kata aren't forced to sit out matches. Photo: Photosport

They've really attacked the Hurricanes' scrum, as well as their ability to defend the lineout drive.

Perenara, such an admirable figure with regard to social issues, said those "who talk about our pack are people who often haven't played the game and don't know a lot about the game.''

And therefore aren't entitled to an opinion. Or at least one that differs from ours because, after all, we know best.

Rugby is a great game. Here in New Zealand it's also a unifying force. At the moment, though, fans are only united in their confusion about who's not playing each week and why not.

*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.

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