By Kevin McCarthy.
How ridiculous to be talking about rugby in the wake of the Christchurch atrocities. But that’s where we are, and it’s right to be discussing the matter of the Crusaders name.
I would be amazed if it isn’t changed. No matter how it has become synonymous with Super Rugby’s most successful team, it also carries the baggage it took onboard from day one.
I don’t know who made the final call, but I am sure the Crusaders name was not selected as a nod to the string of religiously-motivated invasions of what was then called the Holy Lands. Indeed, the Crusades – which pretty soon degenerated into a series of pillaging and mercenary expeditions – is exactly the sort of brand you would not want to be associated with.
So the name probably came from its forthright connotations – strong, resolute, a band of brothers chasing a cause. The Crusaders at the weekend also expressed how they saw the name in a positive light.
On the other hand – and you can see how it made a great marketing tool – there was the pageantry of faux knights on horseback, charging around the arena with a castle backdrop, to the thundering notes of Conquest of Paradise.
So it would be a stretch to claim the Crusaders are not adopting the iconography of the Crusades, although those events have absolutely no relevance to Canterbury, its people, or its rugby team.
And why does this matter? Well, I’ve seen a few articles that pigeon hole the Crusades neatly into a couple of centuries. But they were just an episode. Muslim and Christian forces would clash for another 500 years or more across Europe. And you don’t need to pull out the history books to know that the Middle East continues to be, well, complicated – and the word Crusaders remains alive and full of meaning.
The final say should rest with how the Muslim community view the issue of course. You can have a different view, and argue the what-about-isms forever, but in the end we are talking about a sports team, a commercial nickname, and a small but significant chance for rugby to be part of the healing.
It was obviously hard to feel anything much about the rugby game played in Hamilton later that day.
But if we can jump out of the real world now, and into the super rugby world, it’s not surprising that the Chiefs finally rebounded – and that they did so against the Hurricanes.
The Canes are not doing much to shake the impression they will be chasing second spot in the NZ conference. There’s the familiar mix of brilliance and brittleness.
That’ll probably be enough; for the Canes essentially, the stupidly-early rematch with the Crusaders in the next couple of weeks will be the only chance to pull back the leaders.
Why is the talk about Warren Gatland going to coach England?
He’s winner, and the talk should be about him going for the All Blacks’ top job.
Ian Foster should not be the only contender. Throw Scotty Robinson in there of course if he’s interested.
Gatland still hasn’t got the respect he deserves from some New Zealanders. Perhaps it will take a World Cup win to change that.
The Hurricanes have locked in three young players for the next two seasons.
Promising prop Xavier Numia (Oriental-Rongotai), openside flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi (Northern United), and lock James Blackwell (Petone), have signed until the end of 2021.
Utility back Vince Aso, who first joined the Hurricanes in 2015 and is closing in on 50 matches for the club, and second year prop Alex Fidow (Oriental-Rongotai), have signed until the end of the 2022 season.
Hurricanes centurion Beauden Barrett will take over the captaincy for Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby match against the Stormers at Westpac Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm.
Barrett, who has made 116 appearances for the Hurricanes and scored more than 1150 points, will have younger brother Jordie immediately outside him after the latter was named to start in the No 12 jersey.
Last year’s top try-scorer Ben Lam returns on the left wing which sees Wes Goosen move to the right from last week’s match against the Chiefs.
There will be a first start for Richard Judd at halfback for what will be his fifth appearance for the Hurricanes since making his debut against the Crusaders last year.
Threee changes have been made in the forward pack with Liam Mitchell returning at lock while Vaea Fifita moves back to the side of the scrum.
The other changes up front are at hooker where Ricky Riccitelli returns to the starting side in place of Dane Coles, who is unavailable for the match along with TJ Perenara and Ngani Laumape, while Fraser Armstrong comes in for Toby Smith who has an ankle injury.
The Hurricanes squad to face the Stormers is:
15 Chase Tiatia
14 Wes Goosen
13 Matt Proctor
12 Jordie Barrett
11 Ben Lam
10 Beauden Barrett (c)
9 Richard Judd
8 Reed Prinsep
7 Ardie Savea
6 Vaea Fifita
5 Liam Mitchell
4 James Blackwell
3 Ben May
2 Ricky Riccitelli
1 Fraser Armstrong
16 James O’Reilly
17 Xavier Numia
18 Jeff To’omaga-Allen
19 Isaia Walker-Leawere
20 Sam Henwood
21 Finlay Christie
22 Fletcher Smith
23 Danny Toala