30 Jul

Watch Out Jerry
by WAJ
30 Jul 2007

Only 15 sleeps to go and the excitement is just starting to creep in.
Melbourne is of course completely immune to it all, too busy focussed on
drugs, suspensions and sacked coaches in the AFL and their finals around
the corner as well.

Though I will say that the mighty Melbourne Rebels
have taken an early lead in the Aus Provincial Champs, and even managed
to attract close to 5000 for their debut game in Melbourne. Enough – I
know – who cares about non-rugby Aus sport!

More importantly the AB’s are in their final phase of their home
preparations.

So we are about to find out how much past their peak this
team really is!?!? I see it this way – we have dominated on every NH
tour we have undertaken over the last 3 years and in fact are unbeaten
in doing so. We have beaten the best France, England and Ireland can
throw at us, often by considerable margins with mix and match teams, and
this after long S14 and International seasons.

This team plays well at
the end of the year! Of course we have the usual barrage from all and
sundry, especially over here, about the choking in the past and the
current hobby horse of being past it, though how a team with it’s best
XV having an average age of 26.9 and average caps of 40 (compared with
Aust of 28.0 and 51 respectively) is past it is beyond me. Still that is
the Aussie go – have a huge bash at the team considered their strongest
opposition in the hope it will get them some advantage.

Though somehow,
when Jerry Collins is making his umpteenth play of the game, he isn’t
going to suddenly think "oh shit we’re past it, better be a bit shy in
this contact". Good luck to them!

And how great is it to see Hawkes Bay in the Top 4 of the ANZC. All
power to them, and beating a top province like North Harbour will only
give them more confidence. And big Troyser launches his campaign to
usurp Jerry Collins on the blindside flank this Friday – pity is it’s
about 2 – 3 months too late!

And so to the games:

Counties Manukau v Hawkes Bay – you have to fancy HB continuing on their
merry way here. Recent results against North Harbour by both teams would
suggest a close win to HB. Both teams have talented individuals in the
backline, and this is where CM will need to get the best of Masaga and
Ta’auso to have any chance. But HB looked after the well credentialled
NH backline last week, and expect they will do it again. The big question
will be how many people turn up on a Thursday night?
Hawkes Bay 1 – 12

Southland v Northland – The inbreds v the potheads – surely a true
classic in the making. You could probably make a movie about it – say a
cross between The Waterboy, Good Bye Pork Pie and Up in Smoke – no rugby
but plenty of fun getting there. I fancy a close Southland win. They
have improved of late and will be too strong at home. Northland will
back themselves though, and if not winning have been super competitive -
won’t like the cold though, rain OK, cold no. Southland 1 – 12

Auckland v Taranaki – Taranaki always play well against Auckland, but
the mighty Auks are on a roll and will be far too strong, especially up
front with what is a fairly large and mobile pack – and I see they have
named a 5:2 bench as well. Taranaki will bring their usual gutsy effort
but will be blown away by this very good Akld team
Auckland 13+

Bay of Plenty v Otago – BoP will be disappointed to lose to Manawatu,
and seem doomed to haunt the bottom of the table this year – they simply
lack any class or experience in a lot of positions. Otago too are on a
low too but have enough to win this.
Otago 13+

Wellington v Tasman – The Trans-Cook Cup! Big brother will eat up little
brother and spit him back to where he belongs. Just too much experience
up front, and too much class out back, very typical of a lot of these
type of games in the ANZC where of course the S14 base teams will
dominate – a bit of a yawn really.
Wellington 13+

North Harbour v Waikato – NH have been pretty crap all year. Their most
dominant performance was against Taranaki in the 1st Shield defence and
they only just held on there in the end. They win enough ball, though
their scrum is a bit dodgy with the 2 young props, but something is not
quite clicking in the backs – is Wulf a 2 5/8, does Pisi control the
game well enough from 1 5/8, some of his option taking seems
questionable. Waikato will be nicely primed for this, back to full
strength and thus with a very solid set of forwards, if a bit light at
lock, and a mix of young and old in the backs led by the most improved
player in NZ rugby at 1 5/8. The Duck has really stepped forward this
year, and I for one roundly criticised him, but he has plugged away and
though he has the worst kicking style, he is mightily effective with it.
Needs to nurse his inexperienced midfield through this, especially the
challenge Tuitavake presents. But Waikato will be too good for a
disfunctional NH
Waikato 13+

Canterbury v Manawatu – refer Wellington v Tasman.
Canterbury 13+

Regards Waj

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