- By Kevin McCarthy
True to form, the All Blacks duffed the last Bledisloe of this year. The kings of the dead rubber, the Wallabies. Now exactly what would that trophy look like?
What I mean is let’s not engage in a giant pile-on after the fractious, disjointed performance that saw four cards, and a feisty home side really where they wanted to be, engaging in plenty of productive niggle.
So I can understand Ian Foster talking about the need for performances worthy of the jersey but I’m not sure this one quite the bar for the riot act to be read. As coach however, he has the sanction of picking and not picking.
So we’ll see the first outing of his new All Blacks, his A selection, against a team, Argentina, that will be a mystery. They’ll be severely short of matchplay but presumably not that sort of spirit that typically animates the Pumas, especially if they are treated as underdogs.
Against a full-steam Pumas we’d expect a tough pack, a hard to breach defence, and some dangerous enterprise in the backs. Attrition has tended to be the only way to wear them down.
This weekend though, who knows what will front up. Anyway in an insane year, how great it is still to be able to write about test rugby being played live, in front of spectators.
It’s just numbers, but clearly the best way to improve your world ranking is not to play.
It’s worked a treat for the Boks, who have lengthened their lead in world rankings despite not playing anyone for quite a while – and for the foreseeable future.
The All Blacks on the other hand have slipped – thanks to the Brisbane result. We really need to be playing less, don’t you think.
Did you enjoy trying to find the soft matches in the just released Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 schedule? That’s right, there aren’t any.
So please, please, let’s get to the point where we let the Aussies back in.
I noted there are a few more daytime matches – but the requirement to balance the needs of the broadcaster (i.e. make money) still trumps fan enjoyment.
Well at least it will all be done and dusted with a grand final May 8. It’s still balmy in Wellington at that time of year of course, so don’t worry about the evening start, visiting fans.
The Lions showed why they would not be great Ranfurly Shield holders last weekend, in going down to a handy Hawke’s Bay.
Now the season rests on beating Manawatu this weekend, which should not be that hard.
Quite where that will leave the final standings, no-one is too sure.
The provincial battle is of course incredibly tight for nearly all teams, which suggests it’s ticking the box of any sports tournament – that there be competitiveness across the field, rather than a mix of champions versus also-rans.
Cue of course what is said to be another shakeup of format next year. There may be good reasons for this, including finances, but it smacks of the old adage – if it’s working, let’s tinker with it.
Super Rugby will pack twice the punch in 2021 with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Rugby Australia (RA) announcing today a six-week Super Rugby Trans-Tasman tournament which will kick off on 14 May.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman will feature 10 Super Rugby clubs, five from New Zealand and five from Australia, playing 25 matches over five weeks before a Final on Saturday 19 June.
The Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders will play five matches against the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force including two home matches each in New Zealand.
All teams will also play two away matches, while their fifth will be part of a ‘Super Round’ featuring all Round 3 matches being played at one location, over one weekend.
NZR and RA will announce kick-off times, dates and venues as well as the process that will be used to select the location of the ‘Super Round’ in due course.
The Final will be played between the top two teams after the five weeks of matches on the combined competition ladder with the team who finished first earning home advantage for the decider.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman 2021 draw
Round One (May 14-15)
Crusaders v Brumbies; Western Force v Chiefs; Melbourne Rebels v Blues; Highlanders v Queensland Reds; NSW Waratahs v Hurricanes
Round Two (May 21-22)
Chiefs v Brumbies; Western Force v Highlanders; Hurricanes v Melbourne Rebels; Queensland Reds v Crusaders; Blues v NSW Waratahs
Round Three – Super Round (May 28-29)
Blues v Brumbies; Hurricanes v Western Force; Melbourne Rebels v Highlanders; Queensland Reds v Chiefs; NSW Waratahs v Crusaders
Round Four (June 4-5)
Brumbies v Hurricanes; Crusaders v Western Force; Chiefs v Melbourne Rebels, Queensland Reds v Blues; Highlanders v NSW Waratahs
Round Five (June 11-12)
Brumbies v Highlanders; Blues v Western Force; Melbourne Rebels v Crusaders; Hurricanes v Queensland Reds; NSW Waratahs v Chiefs