Of saints, slogfests and sacks
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.