8 Apr 2019

Super Rugby wrap week 8: Political campaign or rugby season

11:51 am on 8 April 2019

It's almost as if we're in the midst of a political campaign, rather than a Super Rugby season. All that's missing is a disclaimer stating: the following is a paid advertisement on behalf of the Blues Party.

The Blues in a team huddle during Super Rugby.

There's a solidity to the Blues' 2019 side that's really very admirable, writes Hamish Bidwell Photo: Photosport

Rightly or wrongly, there's certainly a few folk staking their reputations on a Blues' resurgence, so let's start this week's wrap there.


Is there a more disappointing team than the Waratahs?

If names meant success, they'd be title contenders every season. Instead, the star-studded Sydney side consistently produce performances unworthy of their individual reputations.

Good on the Blues for (again) showing the ability to grind out a win. When brilliance failed, the Blues used to have nothing to fall back on, but there's a solidity to the 2019 side that's really very admirable.

They now play the Chiefs, Highlanders and Brumbies away from home, before their mouth-watering 10 May clash with the Hurricanes at Eden Park.

If the Blues can beat those teams then we'll all start acclaiming them.

The man, the myth

If Sonny Bill Williams had been fit, would Ma'a Nonu have started the Blues' 32-29 win over the Waratahs?

Injuries and compassionate leave mean Williams hasn't played the rugby he might have this season but, when available, he's looked the better of the Blues' veteran midfield backs.

Now Nonu plays well - as a player of his ilk should do - and the Ma'a For The World Cup bandwagon cranks into gear again. It's one game.

Nonu's had his time in international rugby and it would be an insult to New Zealand's established midfield stars if they were shunted out to accommodate him.

If we assume four are going to the world cup: Williams, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown, then Ngani Laumape and maybe Matt Proctor might feel unlucky to miss out.

Let's admire Nonu and appreciate that he's back in New Zealand and celebrate all he's done for the game. But, please, let's also leave him out of the All Blacks discussion.

You can't measure effort

The height and weight charts might not suggest Ardie Savea is a colossus of our game, but his performances regularly prove otherwise.

Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes scores a try against the Highlanders

Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes scores a try against the Highlanders. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019 www.photosport.nz

Kieran Read has the All Blacks' No.8 jumper locked down for now but, once he goes into international retirement, Savea deserves a go there.

The back of the scrum has always been Savea's best position, despite various coaches fearing he was too little.

Akira Ioane, for instance, is probably the ideal build, but there's no way he's got Savea's heart.

Sopoaga's absence keenly felt

The poor old Highlanders. They did more than enough to beat the Hurricanes on Friday, but continue to lack that bit of polish and nous to close games out.

In days gone by Lima Sopoaga might have provided those but with him in England, and Aaron Smith injured, the Highlanders were left to lament a disappointing 31-28 defeat.

How many TMOs can you name?

Admittedly a tough question, given most Television Match Officials are neither seen nor heard.

Ben Skeen's a slightly different matter, though. No match is complete until he's weighed in from above, over-ruling an onfield decision or alerting the referee to some atrocity.

No, if there is a TMO earning themselves a bit of name recognition, then it's definitely Skeen.

Team of the week

The Crusaders, as we're still calling them for now, really are superb.

Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders dives over to score a try. against the ACT Brumbies.

Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders dives over to score a try against the ACT Brumbies. Photo: Photosport

No matter who's in their starting XV, the quality of the performances rarely fluctuates. This week it was centre Tim Bateman, wing Sevu Reece and hooker Ben Funnell who made rare appearances in the run-on side and all were terrific as the Brumbies were dispatched 36-14.

While others team rely on brute force or freakish athletic ability to create linebreaks, the Crusaders continue to bust opponents open with craft and guile.

Add that to their set piece supremacy and outstanding defence and you have a team who truly are streets ahead in so many departments.

All Blacks-bolter watch

Not for the first time this season, Hurricanes wing Ben Lam really impressed this week. Defensive physicality and workrate, as well as his catch and pass, remain work-ons for Lam, but there are few ball carriers anywhere who can match his combination of speed and power.

New Zealand's not too badly off for wings when you consider Lam, and others such as Tevita Li, Solomon Alaimalo, Wes Goosen, might never become All Blacks.

Melani Nanai's playing fullback at the moment, but he's another who can go in that bracket.

Then there's George Bridge, who has played a test but suddenly doesn't look certain to play dozens more.

Week 8 Form XV

15 - Ben Smith (Highlanders)

14 - Will Jordan (Crusaders)

13 - Tim Bateman (Crusaders)

12 - Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)

11- Ben Lam (Hurricanes)

10 - Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)

9 - TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)

8 - Luke Whitelock (Highlanders)

7 - Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

6 - Shannon Frizell (Highlanders)

5 - Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)

4 - Scott Barrett (Crusaders)

3 - Owen Franks (Crusaders)

2 - Ben Funnell (Crusaders)

1 - Joe Moody (Crusaders)

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