High in­jury rate in NZ’s Su­per Rugby der­bies

The Witness - - SPORT -

WELLINGTON — New Zealand’s highly-com­pet­i­tive Su­per Rugby der­bies are be­gin­ning to take their toll on the teams, with Auck­land Blues coach Tana Umaga the worst hit as he scram­bles to field a side miss­ing 18 squad mem­bers through in­jury.

Su­per Rugby re­aligned this year to en­sure more in­ter-con­fer­ence ac­tion with the New Zealand sec­tion prov­ing the most com­pet­i­tive, as coaches, fans and play­ers have all ad­mit­ted that in­ten­sity lev­els in those games are bor­der­ing on the ex­treme.

That level of pas­sion has been hard to sus­tain for the Blues, who sit bot­tom of the con­fer­ence af­ter just two wins in seven matches, while Umaga has lost five play­ers to sea­son-end­ing in­juries. Two more, full­back Michael Collins (bro­ken hand) and lock Josh Good­hue (shoul­der), were ruled out for at least a month af­ter their 24-10 over the Sun­wolves on Satur­day.

“It seems all the New Zealand Su­per teams are suf­fer­ing from a high at­tri­tion rate and we are no dif­fer­ent,” Umaga said in a state­ment yes­ter­day. “It is test­ing the depth of the play­ing re­sources around the coun­try.”

The Blues have played three New Zealand der­bies and three matches against phys­i­cal South African sides this sea­son, and now have seven mid­field or out­side backs and three locks un­avail­able for se­lec­tion. “It is test­ing our depth and our re­sources, but at the same time it is giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to oth­ers,” added Umaga, whose side face the Otago High­landers on Fri­day. “It is chal­leng­ing to build mo­men­tum when we are chang­ing so many play­ers and now bring­ing in new faces.”

The Waikato Chiefs have also suf­fered from sim­i­lar is­sues with Ai­dan Ross the sixth player to be ruled out for the sea­son af­ter he picked up a se­ri­ous an­kle in­jury against the Wellington Hur­ri­canes last week. The Chiefs, who have now had all six props orig­i­nally se­lected in their squad ei­ther ruled out for the sea­son or still suf­fer­ing from in­jury, have been forced to draft in Sam Prat­t­ley from club rugby.

“We’ve had a real chal­lenge there, haven’t we?” Chiefs coach Colin Cooper told re­porters of their prob­lems in the front row ahead of their clash with Aus­tralia’s Queens­land Reds on Satur­day. “It’s just the way the game is, it’s fast, it’s phys­i­cal, and yes, our ex­pec­ta­tion on front row­ers is to do more than push.”

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

Tana­ Umaga­ says­ his­ Blues­ are­vic­tims­ of­ New­ Zealand­ play­ers­get­ting­ in­jured­ badly­ dur­ing­ fierceSu­per­ Rugby­ der­bies.­

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