1 Apr 2019

Super Rugby: week seven breakdown

2:52 pm on 1 April 2019

Opinion - Go the Sunwolves. What a glorious win that was over the Waratahs. More on that later, but let's start this week's Super Rugby wrap with Beauden Barrett.

Hurricanes first five Beauden Barrett comes under pressure from Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock.

Beauden Barrett could do with a trip to Sydney's north to see former Knights playmaker Matthew Johns, according to Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Photosport

Collaroy Calling

Who knows what Hurricanes first five-eighth Beauden Barrett has planned for his next rest week, but a trip to see Matthew Johns at Collaroy wouldn't be a bad idea.

Different code, sure, but there's hardly a rugby league halfback or five-eighth who hasn't been sent to work with Johns.

The former Newcastle Knight, turned television personality, is regarded as something of a playmaker whisperer.

He never charges a fee and, having previously consulted to the Melbourne Storm, isn't aligned to a club.

Johns is just given players, who he takes down to his local park on Sydney's northern beaches, running them through various drills and exercises before reviewing it all over a schooner.

It's something Barrett might benefit from, having again been undone by a rush defence last Friday.

This time it was the Crusaders, but we've seen similar from teams such as the British and Irish Lions and Ireland, and you'd expect more of it at the world cup.

Johns helps people play square at the defensive line, rather than go sideways as Barrett tends to, improving their vision, spacial awareness and ability to read numbers.

No doubt Barrett has a plan - and his own trusted advisers - it's just that it doesn't appear to be working.

Just on the Crusaders

We can surely write their week six defeat to the Waratahs off to mental exhaustion, following the awful events in Christchurch.

They were back to old ways in Wellington, easily beating the Hurricanes 32-8.

You really have to admire them. It's almost a Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope routine, where they absorb all the opposition can throw at them, certain that a mistake will come and that they will capitalise.

Teams know what the Crusaders will do and yet can't compete with them in the set pieces, nor retain the accuracy and patience to breach their defence.

More please, Blues

The Blues are back, apparently.

In new head coach Leon MacDonald, the Blues have a smart man. One who, having come from the Crusaders, knows success is built on solid set pieces and defence.

The Blues aren't the finished article in either area, but they're definitely displaying far more substance than previous years.

Sonny Bill Williams in action for the Blues  against the Stormers in Super Rugby.

Sonny Bill Williams in action for the Blues against the Stormers in Super Rugby. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2019 www.photosport.nz

They're also able, as the Crusaders always have been, to replace quality with quality.

Saturday's clash with the Stormers was tight for an hour, but bringing on Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Dalton Papali'i and the returning Sonny Bill Williams, swung the match in the Blues' favour.

Do that three or four more times, particularly against good opposition, and we can start the discussion about a Blues' resurgence.

Set piece supremacy

Like the Blues, the Chiefs have begun turning their season around by being better at scrum time.

Blown away by the Brumbies earlier in the season, the Chiefs are far more sturdy now. Starting props Aidan Ross, Nepo Laulala, then replacement Angus Ta'avao, all impressed as the Jaguares were beaten 30-27 in Buenos Aires.

Yes, Damian McKenzie has benefited from dropping back to fullback, but his form's also attributable to playing behind a functioning scrum.

You only have to look at the Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett to see how suspect set pieces can hamper a playmaker

Team of the week

It would be nice to be a bigger person and to admire the work of all television commentators.

Sadly, there's just something about the folk who call Australian Super Rugby games on TV that really grates.

We're all prone to bias, but there's a degree of glee and cosiness that appears particular to their broadcasts. Maybe it's to do with one of them having a son in the Waratahs team.

Whatever the case, wasn't it great to see the Sunwolves beat the Waratahs 31-29 on Friday.

Unloved, and soon to be extinct, the Sunwolves remain a side whose effort can't be faulted and they are deserved winners of our team of the week.

All Blacks bolter-watch

No spot is more wide open than blindside flanker.

Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo, Jordan Taufua and Tom Robinson have all done good things there this season, but in week seven it was the Hurricanes' Vaea Fifita who really caught the eye.

Often regarded as slightly work-shy and prone to playing in fits and starts, Fifita produced a an excellent performance against the Crusaders.

We all know he can run over poor teams down the tramlines, but it was Fifita's work in the tight that impressed on this occasion.

Week seven NZ form XV

15 - David Havili (Crusaders)

14 - Will Jordan (Crusaders)

13 - Matt Proctor (Hurricanes)

12 - Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)

11 - Rieko Ioane (Blues)

10 - Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)

9 - Brad Weber (Chiefs)

8 - Tyler Ardron (Chiefs)

7 - Matt Todd (Crusaders)

6 - Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes)

5 - Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)

4 - Scott Barrett (Crusaders)

3 - Nepo Laulala (Chiefs)

2 - Codie Taylor (Crusaders)

1 - Aidan Ross (Chiefs)

*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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