• By Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy is Club Rugby’s Falkland Islands correspondent and has been covering and watching rugby around the world since the days of Wairarapa-Bush tearing up the NPC first division.
Strictly speaking the world spins at pretty much the same rate, at least as far as mere mortals like us can work it out.
Except it doesn’t feel that way going into 2020 and the new rugby year. So much is in flux, from the top to the bottom of the sport, and the forces at work seem to be getting more unstable.
No wonder that in the aftermath of the All Blacks World Cup collapse, people may be feeling a bit angst ridden over the future. There’s a ton of chickens coming home to roost.
Which is not the way to start the New Year is it. So bloody cheer up. There’s any number of doom and gloom merchants out there you can misery with, but really?
Let’s have a crack at some usual suspects.
We’ve picked the wrong coach for the All Blacks – yes, well, I think whoever was picked is going to be in for a rough old year. And you know what, that’s interesting. That rare feeling of worrying about the All Blacks winning? Make it your friend, savour the wins, and enjoy the ride.
Our standards are in decline – see above. The drain of top and near top players is now a given. Just see the way the Hurricanes are in near constant refurbishment mode. It seems you no sooner start enjoying a young player’s rise then he’s off up North. Still, the production line is still working as far as we can work out. And just hold your breath, because the money train may be getting wobbles.
We’ve lost all our coaching talent – yes, it is staggering how much of world rugby is coached by Kiwis. Yet there is always going to be just one head coach and a couple of top associates. How do we even begin to change something that can’t be changed. The Kiwi coaching mafia after all (if you want to be arrogant) has helped lift standards in several parts of the world, and made for better global competition. Good luck to them and be proud.
Super Rugby is a mess – okay, it’s definitely made some huge missteps, and the competition is nowhere near the star-quality league of say a decade ago. It remains however the prime rugby competition we have, and the key stepping stone to international test rugby. You can still watch a lot of high quality, attack minded footie. Would you rather be watching Heineken Cup. And at least the league won’t have to endure a test window this time.
The Hurricanes are in for a rough season – Maybe, maybe not. The team certainly doesn’t have to live up to unrealistic expectations, having lost two marquee players (that Beaudy bloke, and the one man dynamo Ardie). There will be a LOT of pressure around our young first-fives, and worries as always about the pack. But let’s not forget there are some old hands still there, some exciting new and near new potential, and that the spine of the team isn’t radically changed. The team incidentally that was one dodgy play from ruining the Crusaders’ season last year.
And the big one – Rugby is in terminal decline in the sporting life of the nation. I’m not saying that. Essentially the NZRU is, by announcing a major review, as the first major move of the post-Tew era. It maybe peppered with management speak, and with the fan-centric view not evident, but we can hope it is not an exercise in box ticking. Because there is a desperate need to not be complacent, and perhaps in that World Cup failure last year, the game has got the shock that it needed, and that couldn’t be papered over by All Black success.
That’s enough for now. We could add in the continued abuse of the NPC, and the constant law changes. The gulf left by not having to talk about Sonny Bill Williams quite so much (good player though).
But let’s remember one thing you can control. If you love rugby, you can get off your backside and go and watch it in person, even if you’re past playing. You can swell the crowds, you can build the buzz, you can make going to the game a big event again.
Because if you aren’t going to, then who will? And if you don’t then eventually all of the bad stuff may come true.
So Rugby 2020. What will it be like? That’s up to you.
The Hurricanes start their 2020 campaign this weekend against the Stormers in Cape Town.
Kick-off at Newlands is 2.05am Sunday (NZT).
The Hurricanes team to play the Stormers is: