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Aisle be Back: Hurricanes v Force in Napier

Ngani Laumape partners with Peter Umaga-Jensen in the Hurricanes midfield against Jeremy Thrush’s Force in Napier tonight.  

  • By Kevin McCarthy

Spoiler alert. Australian rugby is weak.

Hold on, sorry, you knew that. We all knew that. Even the Australians knew that. For about the last five years.

Which means the fuss over the very apparent gulf is really a bit of a concoction. Not that we shouldn’t discuss it.

Honestly, how could it be otherwise. New Zealand has much more of a natural talent pool and a largely intact production line, so it can continue to bleed experienced players and still produce a viable rugby ecosystem.

Not that it isn’t creaking badly in places, but nothing like Australia, where the decay has been evident since they began to stretch three provinces into five super sides.

Commercially and interest-wise it would be terrific if the Aussies could put together competitive sides, or even one – and they may yet do so. At test level, its even more likely.

Stating what others have, it’s obvious that Australia needs to play with us more than we need to play with them. It exposes them to a higher standard, and helps them build,  Let’s face it, we need them too – otherwise it would be endless derby smash-ups- round after round of SRA.

Since we play Australia at least three times a year, we also need them to be a decent and challenging test side.

The real worry I feel goes beyond our trans-Tasman rivalry. Both sides of the ditch play different but similar forms of rugby – built mostly around speed. And it maybe rugby ‘s oldest cliché, but our other global rivals – South Africa and the northern hemisphere – do not.

If we are to be playing in our own backyard, with the Pacific adding to the mix, but no South Africa anymore, then will we atrophy?  Will we struggle more and more against bigger physical styles of play and player. These are crude generalisations, but you catch my drift.

If that sounds alarmist, well, the losses to Argentina and England might be produced as early bits of evidence. Not a trend by any means, but I suspect those northern treks are going to be especially important for exposing the All Blacks to some real challenges to learn from and adapt to.


Fingers crossed that the trans-Tasman comp is not decided by the vagaries of travel  bubble sudden stops and lockdowns.

As we know. It’s a race to avoid dropping bonus points, or worse, actually losing to an Australian side, if you are going to make the finals.

With the Highlanders suddenly having to fly to Sydney to play the Rebels this weekend – rather than the two meeting in Queenstown – it’s perilously close to games being called off. Which will be fatal for the affected New Zealand team’s wider prospects.

As for who will suffer the curse of first losing to the Australians, there ae more than a few bets resting on it being your favourite team, the Hurricanes.

Admittedly we’ve won twice out of two, and comfortably enough. But both were against, literally, the two worse Australian sides.

If it does happen, the betting would be that it will be against the Brumbies in Canberra. Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen  Then again, who knows if we’ll even get on the darned plane.

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