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Bond Banter 21 February (some rugby news and information to start the week)

Evening edition: The pre-season holding pen remains an unsettled place to be for rugby players, administrators and supporters alike, as disruptions could escalate over the next few weeks.

The close contact isolation rule could start proving a nightmare amongst teams and clubs preparing for their pre-season campaigns in March and the scheduled start day of major club rugby competitions in Wellington and the Manawatu on 2 April.

Case in point was Saturday’s scheduled game between the Wellington U20s and the Hawke’s Bay U20s – which we were asked not to promote in advance in case a crowd turned up to watch –  that was called off at the eleventh hour owing to a small group of Wellington players being close contacts with another player from their club not involved in the game who had tested positive.

The two corporate rugby clashes in the South Island went ahead as planned, with the Chiefs and Highlanders meeting in Queenstown and the Hurricanes and Crusaders playing in Dunedin. Both matches were played in front of no one.

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New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has made the decision to relocate the four Super Rugby Aupiki squads to Taupō to ensure the inaugural season of the competition can take place.

The inaugural women’s Super Rugby competition will be played in a condensed format with matches being played on Saturday 5 March, Thursday 10 March, Tuesday 15 March with the Final on Sunday 20 March.

With the Women’s World Cup coming up later in the year on home soil, much emphasis will be put on this competition in selecting the RWC squad and giving the players hard matches against each other to help prepare. With the recent list of contracted women’s players that was announced being top heavy with outside backs and seemingly light on tight forwards, such as hookers, it appears it is these latter players with much to gain. The Black Ferns’ inability to combat England’s and to a lesser extent France’s lineout drives on their recent Northern tour that appears to be of most concern for them heading into the RWC.

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Despite the final game of the Hurricanes region U20s tri-series not taking place, a Hurricanes U20s squad and proposed schedule of games is expected to be announced as soon as today.

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Covid disruptions aside, club rugby pre-season matches are just around the corner. There could be a couple as soon as this coming Saturday – to be confirmed.

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The Hurricanes typically struggle in their opening round match in Super Rugby, dropping five of their last eight games. However they did score their biggest win in R1 2018 when they slayed the Sunwolves 83-17 in Tokyo. They also beat the Waratahs 64-48 in the first round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman last year. In 2016 they lost to the Brumbies 10-52 in the first round and went on to win the competition.

How far back does one have to go back to forensically identify mistakes? A slight knock-on by Ben May in a disputed lineout cost Ardie Savea an outstanding individual try. The knock-on happened well before any events that would have influenced Savea’s try.

A blatant double movement by Asafo Aumua when the Hurricanes were up 13-12 just before halftime proved costly against the Crusaders. Instead of a try being scored the Hurricanes were penalised twice and the Crusaders turned at halftime with a 15-13 lead when they could have been down 20-12. Aumua might have got away with an extra crawl playing for Avalon Juniors but not at Super Rugby level. The lack of patience and clinical accuracy would be infuriating for the coaching staff.

Jordie Barrett was the only Hurricanes player to start in all 13 matches last year. He was the top points scorer with 151 points.  Barrett was a man possessed in the second half. Eager for work he broke the line several times and was eventually awarded with a try. Halfback Jamie Booth made an encouraging return but the lack of authority at ten was again a concern. Ruben Love had some bright moments, but some of his clearance kicking lacked distance and accuracy which electric Crusaders fullback Will Jordan really enjoyed.

Leicester Fainga’anuku scored three tries for the Crusaders. Only Scott Hamilton in the 2005 semi-final has achieved that feat for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes.

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The Hikurangi Rugby Football Club in Northland is on the hunt for front rowers.

Hikurangi is willing to help with compensation for relocation cost and are offering jobs, apprenticeships and accommodation. The club is really keen to hear from anyone interested in plying their trade in the North and maybe becoming a future Taniwha.

F0r more visit their website at https://www.hikurangirfc.co.nz  or email hikurangirfc@gmail.com

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The Silver Lake/New Zealand Rugby (NZR) deal establishes a “Global Rugby Opportunities’’ arrangement between Silver Lake, NZR and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) to invest together in rugby-related businesses outside of New Zealand. What does this mean? Could a Kiwi team turn up in the Pro-14 (South Africa has four Super franchises in that competition) or English Premiership? Similarly a New Zealand women’s team could take part in the UK professional competition. What other revenue opportunities exist? Merchandise sales, property investment, academies, setting up a DAO in Web 3.0?

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From the Counties Manukau website last week: Counties Manukau Rugby and its clubs could be set for a significant windfall with the long-touted investment deal from Silver Lake getting the crucial support of the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association.

The NZRPA today approved a partnership between global investment outfit Silver Lake, New Zealand Rugby and NZRPA, which paves the way forward for a $200m investment by Silver Lake that will help fund the grassroots portion of the sport.

Under the terms of the agreement, which remains subject to ratification by the Provincial Unions and Māori Rugby Board, Silver Lake would invest NZD $200 million in a new commercial entity that will house all revenue-generating assets of NZR, with additional co-investment of up to NZD $100 million to be offered to New Zealand-based institutional investors later in 2022. Silver Lake, NZR and NZRPA will also establish “Global Rugby Opportunities” to invest together in rugby-related businesses outside of New Zealand. Read more HERE

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Super Rugby opened across the Tasman on Friday night with the The Waratahs scoring their first victory in Super Rugby in 13 matches and 448 days with a 40-10 win over the Fijian Drua. The Fijians on their Super Rugby debut lacked discipline and set-piece cohesion in their inaugural outing. However, they can take heart from the outstanding display of openside Kitione Salawa who made some brutal tackles and won three clean turnovers in the first-half alone. Halfback Smione Kuruvoli and second-five Kalaveti Ravouvou look like lively prospects. Waratahs prop Angus Bell scored a try and was named man of the match. The 21-year-old prop has played 13 tests for the Wallabies and packs in at a hefty 192cm and 121kg.

The Reds beat the Rebels 23-5, while the Brumbies beat the Force 29-23 in the closest result of the round in Australia.

The curtain-raiser to the Reds-Rebels game in Brisbane saw a charity match between the Vintage Reds and a Tonga Invitational XV. The Tonga side won 24-15, with former Hutt Old Boys Marist wing Hosea Gear scoring a try and setting up another. Over AUD $70,000 had already been raised by the Queensland Rugby community for the Appeal by the end of the game, rising to over $110,000 now. Donations can be made here.

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As reported at the top of this post, unfortunately, the Wellington v Hawke’s Bay Under-20 representative fixture was called off on Saturday because three players in the Wellington team were a close contact of a club player who contracted COVID. With all players in the game presumably vaccinated up the wazoo and with these players among the fittest youngsters in the country, what serious risk was posed if the game went ahead? It could be reasonably suggested that instances of thanatophobia would be extremely low in this group as well.

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Data collected by the Ministry of Health shows the number of self-harm hospitalisations for people aged 10 to 24 rose from 4,274 in the year to September 2016 to 5,652 in the year to September 2021 – an increase of almost a third. The stress of COVID includes the breakdown of social utility in sport. How sustainable are the present restrictions?

Read more HERE

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A sad and inspiring story about Black Fern Honey Hireme-Smiler. What a legend! Read more HERE

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The Hurricanes were posting on their social media from Nigeria last week:

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Chiefs No.8 Pita ‘Gus’ Sowakula was a standout in the Chiefs 26-16 win against the Highlanders. Big Gus has been a model of consistency for many years. Could he be an All Black soon, New Zealand sorely lacking big back rowers who went forward on the Northern Tour.

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Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea questions four-hour bus trips for Super Rugby Pacific. Read more HERE
The Wellington Pride caught a ferry and bus to Christchurch and beat Canterbury in an NPC game in the 90s returning on the same day. Gisborne Boys’ High School First XV plays its nearest away game each season in Napier, three and a half hours away from the Rectory field. What about Heartland Championship teams?

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Sarah Hirini will captain the inaugural Hurricanes Women’s Super Rugby side this year.

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Old Boys is putting its support behind Tonga. The Oamaru rugby club, which boasts a large Pacific Island player base, hosted a Tongan-themed training session at Whitestone Contracting Centennial Park on Saturday, at which all players and supporters wore red.

At the team’s home games this season, Old Boys will be asking for donations to go towards sending support to players’ families in Tonga, who have been heavily affected by last month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami there.

Read more HERE

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The Colombian women’s rugby team is running lines of a different sort, through to the final Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifying match after they outworked and outfought Kazakhstan at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai, securing a famous 18-10 triumph this weekend. They play ninth ranked Scotland later this week for a place in the tournament starting in New Zealand later this year.

This weekly news and information column is a collaborative one, with several contributors. If you have anything to contribute or broadcast to the wider audience or because not everyone is sitting on social media reading your posts please email editor@clubrugby.co.nz 

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