25 Feb 2024

Super Rugby Pacific: smart mouthguard woes due to dodgy Bluetooth?

11:59 am on 25 February 2024
Scott Barrett (Captain) of the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders, DHL Super Rugby Pacific, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on the Saturday 23 February 2024. Copyright Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz

Scott Barrett (Captain) of the Crusaders. Chiefs v Crusaders, DHL Super Rugby Pacific, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on the Saturday 23 February 2024. Copyright Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz Photo: Jeremy Ward

Analysis - Super Rugby Pacific's back and we've had a bit of drama, a couple of blowouts but most importantly a couple of moments that showcased what the competition is about. First, it's important to address the main narrative that happened during Friday night's opener between the Chiefs and Crusaders.

Quinten Strange and Anton Lienert-Brown cut confused figures as they left the ground for head injury assessments, due to alerts from their new smart mouthguards designed to detect head acceleration events. The problem was neither thought they'd actually suffered a shot to the head and made that obvious to everyone around them.

The cause of the problem though? Word on the inside is that the real villain is something that plagues a lot of us on a daily basis: a dodgy Bluetooth connection. It seems that while the data collected was correct, it simply took far too long for it to be transmitted to the medical team on the sideline because the connection between the mouth guards and the sideline kept dropping out. The solution seems to be to move the Bluetooth responder closer to the players, in the Six Nations this season it has been attached to the referees and there haven't been any issues there. It's also notable that none of the other games over the weekend have had any problems with the technology.

It has somewhat overshadowed what was a very good game, though. It took the Crusaders 40 minutes to remember who they are, but once they did it was a very sobering reminder to everyone else that they are still very capable of the sort of rugby that's won them seven titles in a row. That was without Will Jordan, Codie Taylor and with Tamaiti Williams off the field for all but 10 minutes of the game.

The Blues and Drua's game, that ended 34-10 to the Blues, won't go down as a classic. The Drua's problem is that they played all their best rugby in the first few minutes and didn't touch the ball again until the Blues had scored three tries, which isn't a great way to go about playing against a team with eight All Blacks in it.

It's safe to say the Drua will be a completely different team when they head back to Fiji, though.

While Friday night was a great game, the Highlanders' 35-21 win over Moana Pasifika on Saturday evening in Dunedin made a pretty decent effort to living up to that standard. Moana's first-half effort was about as good as they've been for their entire existence, playing smart footy to their strengths and taking the points on offer.

It took an early contender for the try of the season to win the game for the Highlanders, Sean Withy's run, Jona Nareki's cut, Folau Fakatava's behind the back pass and Billy Harmon's quick thinking sent Sam Gilbert over. If Super Rugby needed a showcase moment to sell itself right now, that was it, along with the promising signs from Moana that hopefully will mean they won't be easy beats this season.

Meanwhile, it's relatively common for second generation players to make their mark in Super Rugby but the Hurricanes' Jordi Viljoen can go one better than that. His father and grandfather, Joggie Jr and Joggie Sr, both played for the Springboks and Joggie Jr also had a season with the Canes after relocating to Manawatū in 2000. Jordi debuted with a start at halfback in the Canes' 44-14 win over the Force, keeping Cam Roigard on the bench and marking it with a try. Considering the Canes also have TJ Perenara on their books, they can probably claim to have the most depth of any team right now in that position.

The Reds unsurprisingly got up 40-22 over the Waratahs in Brisbane, in a pretty entertaining game that featured one of the more bizarre tries you'll ever see. Tahs winger Dylan Pietsch attempted a pass back inside, which cannoned off Hunter Paisami's head and back into Pietsch's hands for him to dive over. Anyone ever seen that happen before?

It will be an interesting week off the field coming up, though. The irony of all the teams heading to Melbourne for Super Round when there are serious question marks over the Rebels' future is palpable, and something that is bound to be raised once we get a sufficient assurance that we won't be talking about mouth guards every week.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.