Cousins face off in final
When Sean Maitland started primary school it was Quade Cooper who showed him around.
And when they were playing rugby together as kids for the Pirates club in Tokoroa, Cooper was the playmaker, while Maitland was on the wing.
When Maitland was running the final leg in the 4x100m relay for the local track club it was first cousin Cooper who passed him the baton.
The Tokoroa pair were good mates back then and are still good mates now.
When Maitland is asked if he would put a big defensive shot on Cooper in Saturday night’s Super final against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, he looks a little uncomfortable.
‘‘Ah, I will keep that to myself, maybe. He doesn’t really run down my wing but I guess if he has got the ball and comes at me I will say ‘gidday’.’’
They hung around at primary and intermediate school and, despite taking separate paths when Maitland left Tokoroa to attend Hamilton Boys’ High School and Cooper stayed in the small town before shifting to Aust- ralia, the bond is tight. The pair regularly keep in contact and like anyone who watched the Reds beat the Blues in their semi on Saturday night, Maitland was impressed by how his relative orchestrated the Reds’ attack.
‘‘I watched the game and he is playing absolutely outstanding rugby, the old cuz. This week there are going to be some words exchanged for sure.’’
While his goal-kicking was shoddy Cooper’s ability to create an attack out of seemingly lost situations with his sidestep and audacity will have been noted by the Crusaders as they travel from South Africa to Brisbane.
‘‘ He has always had that sidestep even when we were kids,’’ Maitland, whose father coached their rugby team, said.
‘‘ We played junior
rugby together, did track club together. We were pretty tight.
‘‘He always had the skills and probably the best thing for him was to go to Aussie. There are some good memories.’’
Maitland is related to Cooper through his mother and although his foot injury prevented him taking the field against his relative when the Reds beat the Crusaders in their regular-season match in late May, he remembers when they first clashed as transTasman rivals while representing their respective countries ‘‘I was giving him grief because he was pretty much straight out of NZ and was singing the Aussie national anthem. And we were the team that won that day.’’
It will be a late night for rugby fans when the game kicks off at 9.40pm NZ time.