Of saints, slogfests and sacks

The Dominion Post - - Sport - HAMISH BID­WELL

OPIN­ION: Come on down, Saint Aaron Smith.

The im­mi­nent ar­rival of the High­landers half­back’s cen­tury of Su­per Rugby ap­pear­ances has prompted a vol­ley of trib­utes. Good on Smith for his longevity and the fact that much of his High­landers ca­reer has been fault­less.

But he’s not dead, so there’s no need to pre­tend that he re­mains with­out peer in New Zealand or world rugby. For what­ever rea­son, Smith isn’t as ef­fec­tive as he was a year or two ago.

What he does in his spare time or how he pre­pares for or re­cov­ers from matches is a mat­ter for Smith and his coaches. I don’t care.

What’s harder to ig­nore is the fact that game 100 against the Rebels at Forsyth Barr Sta­dium tonight - has been the cue for talk of re­demp­tion and re­cov­ery from the trauma of last year’s trip to a dis­abled toi­let. Good grief.

What is it about mile­stones that means we have to make out peo­ple have led lives of blame­less ex­cel­lence?

Into the grind

We got spoiled for a while there. It felt like every round threw up a cou­ple of New Zealand der­bies to get enthused about.

But we’re into the real hard slog of the sea­son now, where it’s of­ten only the diehards that can watch their team play in­fe­rior op­po­si­tion on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. We have one New Zealand derby on April 8, an­other on April 15 and then no more un­til the Cru­saders host the Hur­ri­canes on May 13.

In lieu of matches of that cal­i­bre, the Cru­saders’ trip to play the Waratahs on Sun­day evening looms as this week’s most ap­peal­ing con­test. The Waratahs haven’t set the com­pe­ti­tion alight but any win for an away team in Syd­ney re­mains one to savour.

Hope­fully it’s a good spec­ta­cle.

Next stop touch­downs

The Amer­i­can­i­sa­tion of sport - and so­ci­ety - is just one of those unavoid­able things.

Where once a Su­per Rugby player might’ve changed into jeans or track­pants af­ter train­ing, it’s an NBA sin­glet or shorts nowa­days.

If it’s not bas­ket­ball ap­parel, then it’s NFL jar­gon as part of a team’s arse­nal of moves.

In the case of the Hur­ri­canes, there’s now such a thing as the ‘‘quar­ter­back sack’’.

When it comes to scrum­mag­ing, the goal is to push the op­po­si­tion off their own ball. The next-best re­sult, though, is for the Hur­ri­canes’ half­back and loosies to get around and swamp their coun­ter­parts.

‘‘We call it a quar­ter­back sack, so we’re try­ing to get the 9 or the 8 at the base of the scrum so they can’t launch,’’ Hur­ri­canes scrum coach Dan Cron said.

Bet of the week

The Force have only won one game this sea­son, but to­mor­row’s op­po­nents have only won two them­selves. The Force are at $7.50 to beat the Blues at Eden Park which is pretty long. It’s not like the Blues are world­beat­ers or any­thing.

The Reds are wor­thy of an honourable men­tion, at $5.35 to beat the Hur­ri­canes in Bris­bane. That’s not the worst bet ei­ther.

The Cru­saders’ clash with the Waratahs in Syd­ney on Sun­day evening is prob­a­bly the best that round six has to of­fer.

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