Cousins face off in fi­nal

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By RICHARD KNOWLER

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.



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