Mis­matches do sport no favours

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

New Zealand’s top sports teams have been sadly lack­ing in real com­pe­ti­tion lately.

A rather makeshift All Blacks side coasted past Ja­pan 54-6 in Tokyo, the Sil­ver Ferns trounced Malawi 3-0 in a home net­ball test se­ries and the Ki­wis have be­gun their World Cup rugby league de­fence with thrash­ings of Samoa 42-24 and France 48-0.

I’d like to in­clude the New Zealand cricket team’s matches against Bangladesh, but New Zealand and Bangladesh are both cricket min­nows, near the bot­tom of the in­ter­na­tional lad­der.

Ef­forts by some sports of­fi­cials and the me­dia to talk up th­ese lop­sided con­tests have been laugh­able.

John Kir­wan was in­ter­viewed be­fore the Ja­pan match, pre­sum­ably be­cause un­til 2011 he was the Ja­pan coach.

Sir JK said the Ja­panese would try to com­bat the All Blacks’ power with speed, and noted that Ja­panese play­ers had set about putting on weight so they could no longer be steam­rolled.

Rugby jour­nal­ists spoke of how the All Blacks didn’t want to be caught nap­ping, and wanted to keep their fo­cus. In fact, the test was a mis­match, played for com­mer­cial not com­pet­i­tive rea­sons.

Malawi ar­rived in New Zealand af­ter be­ing mauled by Aus­tralia, but Sil­ver Ferns cap­tain Casey Kopua de­scribed the sce­nario as ‘‘lose-lose’’ for her team.

Though coach Waimarama Tau­maunu rested some of her lead­ing play­ers and played oth­ers out of po­si­tion, the scores were em­bar­rass­ingly lop­sided – 70-32, 68-49, 72-39.

It made talk of the Tau­maunu not be­ing too happy with how the Sil­ver Ferns had played seem ridicu­lous.

The Ki­wis will have to beat Aus­tralia to re­tain their World Cup league ti­tle, and that’ll be a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge in­deed.

But they beat Samoa 42-24 (af­ter lead­ing 36-4, then eas­ing up) and France 48- 0 in their open­ing matches. Both games were one- sided bores with the re­sult a for­mal­ity as the teams ran on the field.

Top sport needs the el­e­ment of com­pe­ti­tion to be en­gross­ing.

The 2013 for­mula one cham­pi­onship race was de­cided with three races still to be staged.

Ger­man Sebastian Vet­tel, just 26, wrapped up his fourth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle when he won the In­dian grand prix.

Vet­tel had 322 points and his clos­est chal­lenger, Fer­nando Alonso, 207. Vet­tel had won 10 races to Alonso’s two.

No doubt Vet­tel is a great driver, but clearly his Red Bull car is vastly su­pe­rior. Given nor­mal luck, Vet­tel is un­touch­able, as was Michael Schu­macher a decade ago when he was driv­ing for Fer­rari and won five world crowns in suc­ces­sion.

There is a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion in watch­ing a sports great – Usain Bolt, Manch­ester United, or Tiger Woods and Roger Fed­erer in their pomp – out­class all oppo- sition. But the best of sport is when the com­pe­ti­tion is close and play­ers have to per­form un­der the pres­sure of know­ing that one false move could cost vic­tory.

That’s why a tight Ashes se­ries, a 9-8 Amer­ica’s Cup re­sult, or a foot­ball cham­pi­onship race that goes to the last Satur­day of the sea­son, are what true sports lovers dream about.

What our rugby play­ers, net­ballers and league men have done lately might have seemed im­pres­sive on pa­per, but it didn’t count as top sport, at least not in my book.

Photo: GETTY

Big Bird: Not sur­pris­ingly, the All Blacks were big­ger, faster and stronger than Ja­pan. Here New Zealand lock Do­minic Bird wins a li­ne­out from Michael Broad­hurst of Ja­pan.

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