10 Apr

Rugby 34 Robots 19
by Paul Waite
10 Apr 2001

If the various Super 12 finals that the Brumbies have lost wasn’t conclusive enough proof that robo-rugby is a bad way to go, then you just have to look at the Canes’ 34-19 demolition of it on Friday evening to be convinced.

The bottom line is that instinctive, ad-hoc creative rugby, played within a structured framework is superior to structured rugby played within a creative framework.

If that’s too much of a mouthful to get your head around, I guess what it’s basically saying is that the Brumbies have taken the business of worked moves too far for their own good. It gives them a great consistent platform, but like any ‘system’, once it’s been sussed it becomes a liability.

Such proved the case on Friday night as the Hurricanes took the field on a mission. Every man jack of them was as tightly wound and pumped up as an SAS hero parachuting into enemy territory to save his country. The Brumbies had no answer to that fire, and no answer to the creative genius that is the Hurricanes backline. All they could do was put the same old cracked record on the gramophone, and play the same old tunes.

The Canes won’t take the field again in this Super 12 with the same passion; it was a special night that’s for sure. Nobody is saying they’ll get into the semi-finals either, but hell, they played with the heart, guts and verve that’s been missing from this competition for ages. It was one in a million – thanks to all of the team for putting on that performance for New Zealand fans.

After this memorable game, early on Saturday morning down in a disused carpark in Auckland City a strange breeze gently ruffled some leaves and detritus in a dimly lit corner. A half-awake vagrant started as weird blue arcs of electric discharge danced briefly in the wire fence just across from him. A subliminal base vibrated the lids of some dustcans and then, with a sudden burst of blue flame which lit the area for a short second, 22 men appeared from nowhere. The Blues team had arrived from their parallel universe.

Haka is the first to bring this news to you and, believe me, it more than explains what went on at Eden Park. The team put on yet another inept display which basically gifted the game to a very large but pretty bloody ordinary Sharks team. More than once in the week prior I’d heard Blues fans muttering that their team seemed to be playing a slightly different game to everyone else, and to slightly different rules. Now you know why.

Suffice to say that in their normal universe, you win by NOT supporting the ball carrier at all, and by deliberately failing to notice how the referee is ruling in the game. You also score extra points for niggle, and getting yellow cards. After the game they returned home and received a tickertape parade in Auckland, Alpha-Centauri.

Back to some sense with a bang and let’s look at the Highlanders. Wow, what a performance from these boys this week. After looking like they might all be retiring from the game early last time out, they really put some grunt on the track against a tricksy opponent.

The Waratahs came along with their patented Quik-Rugby ™, as invented by Barbed Wire, their coach. This is quite difficult to watch, since it makes it as hard to follow the ball as with a table-tennis match between two Chinese olympians playing with white bats, on a white table in a white room. No sooner does one player get it than it’s passed on like a hot potato to someone else.

Unfortunately a lot of this involves passing the ball backwards five metres and then running it up five metres. We think that Barbed ought to fine tune this to be only three metres backwards, then they could make some ground with it.

Initially though, this business had Tony Brown and Co. rushing about, and trying to find the person with the ball, and so gaps came along to make it look like a bloody good technique. Then the penny dropped, and the Highlanders forwards and midfielders had great fun smashing the Tahs to the ground no matter what they did.

That was basically the game right then. After that, the Otago boys smacked them around good and proper, spread the ball, caused havoc and scored five great tries. Essentially, this was yet another victory of real rugby, over ‘recipe rugby’. Dwyer has drilled his men to a turn, and come up with a clever old recipe to be sure, but this stuff will never beat the good old-fashioned stuff, when push comes to shove.

One more thing on this game; if the Waratahs were camping in the outback, and the Monster from the Black Lagoon came into their midst, they wouldn’t have as many nightmares as No.8 Vahafalou gave them. He well and truly ran rampant, and Waugh will have cause to remember him both physically and mentally after this weekend.

Finally the Chiefs. Ok, ok, I now have to admit it. The Chiefs climb up to the heights of Super 12 rugby respectability is well underway and is REAL. They proved it conclusively with their utterly gutsy display against the huge Cats side at Tauranga today. The whole team has a tangible team ethic going, and they play for each other in the time-honoured way – something which has been completely absent from previous incarnations. This is quite evidently the doing of John Mitchell – an All Black coach in waiting if ever I saw one.

The Cats were literally camped in the Chiefs half sometimes, and scored two tries to a penalty-try, but the defence from the Chiefs built on Glen Jackson penalty-taking was enough for them to grind out a deserved victory. Well done to Mitchell and well done to Deon Muir and his boys.

The final act of this weekend’s rugby was played out in the early hours (New Zealand time) of this morning in South Africa. Reports have it that the Crusaders turned a 21-12 halftime deficit into a 42-29 victory. This has probably cemented the Bulls’ customary position anchoring the foot of the Super 12 table, and gives the Crusaders hope of a last-ditch tilt at the semis. Well done to them!

So apart from the desperately bad Blues performance, we have had a great weekend over here in New Zealand for a change. Let’s hope that next week builds on this – New Zealand rugby needs it.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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