Ardie: Last year is last year
It’s going to be some tug of war.
On their end of the rope, the Hurricanes are done talking about 2016. All that matters is the next ruck, the next set piece, the next game. Looking back serves no purpose.
It’s the rest of us who want to drag the Super Rugby champions back to last year. Without that title, the team aren’t nearly so interesting or their 2017 matches quite so relevant.
This time last year the Hurricanes appeared portly and sluggish, as the Brumbies spanked them 52-10 in Canberra. On Saturday they began the defence of the crown - they don’t like it referred to in that fashion - by beating the Sunwolves 83-17 in Tokyo.
The Hurricanes looked fit and sharp and enthused and produced some lovely stuff at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.
How to put it into context, though? Last year they started slow but won the title. This year they’ve started fast, but can they sustain that?
Is there any way the team can compere where they are this time around to how they kicked off the previous campaign?
‘‘Last year’s last year,’’ flanker Ardie Savea said succinctly.
Savea scored two of the Hurricanes’ 13 tries in Tokyo and didn’t feel there was much that could be read into the performance. The team played very well for a while and then not so well at the end. That’s it.
‘‘The first 50 or 60 minutes we were really happy with the way the boys went,’’ said Savea.
‘‘It kind of blew out a bit, but we wanted to maintain our structures and keep in our systems and didn’t want to start doing stuff that we haven’t trained. But for the last 20 minutes we kind of fell off a bit and the Sunwolves came back firing, so we’ve got to look at that.’’
It can’t be easy to keep your standards high when the opposition’s are so low?
‘‘We always talk about just nailing our role and next pass and next job and, whatever that was, the boys did that to the best of their abilities. In that first 50 or 60 minutes we scored and we exited and did our core jobs,’’ Savea said.
Lock Michael Fatialofa and wing Vince Aso also bagged a brace of tries, to go with others from hooker Ricky Ricctelli, halfback TJ Perenara, wing Julian Savea, second five-eighth Ngani Laumape, No.8 Blade Thomson, flanker Brad Shields and replacement Wes Goosen. First five-eighth Otere Black converted nine of the 13 tries.
Thomson suffered a shoulder injury and could face several weeks out of the side, while Aso was playing in place of Cory Jane. Jane hurt his neck at training and a spell on the sideline looms for him too.
Most of Saturday’s scorers are no stranger to the tryline but for Fatialofa, the experience was a novel one. The lock scored one try from close range, with the other requiring him to gallop in from about 30 metres.
‘‘I don’t think I’ve scored a try for about five years, in ITM [Cup] or Super. I think I’ve got one ITM try [in my career] so to get two in one game I was pretty shocked,’’ Fatialofa said.
Particularly the one from further out.
‘‘I didn’t really know what to do, to be honest. I was going to pass it to TJ [Perenara] but he told me to just keep running.’’
Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea, left, wraps up the Sunwolves’ Malgene Ilaua.