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OPENING SUPER 12 SALVO - AN ANTI-CLIMAX?

SUPER 12 Rugby Round 1 preview, 26.2.01
Article: Mathew Loh


Opening Super 12 salvo - an Anti-climax?


AFTER a long hot summer of cricketing indignaties, the Kiwi sporting fan was flexing muscle in anticipation of the glorious return of the winter code but it seems the pumped-up return of Super 12 rugby has been deflated by a dismal series of performances on opening weekend.

It all started so sweetly too. As all New Zealand fans will agree seeing an Auckland team lose in Dunedin is no great shame and the sight of the Highlanders' rejuvenated front-row doing a demo job on the Blues was an excellent way to start the season.


Unfortunately there were only a few spare minutes to fantasise about the
carnage Kees Meuwws and Carl Hoeft,- say it slowly with a German accent and they sound even more sinister - would be inflicting on unfortunate Ocker opponents before reality struck home hard at Canberra's Bruce Stadium.

The venue of last year's final hosted a re-run of that game and 2000
champions, the Crusaders rode in only to be bushwacked in a Brumbie ambush of
all-out attacking rugby. A six try to one beating ensued that ensured every
New Zealand fan was brought crashing down to earth.

So from dreaming of glory on the back of a comparatively ordinary Highlanders performance, earlier that evening, Kiwi fans had to sleep through a night of nightmares featuring tricky Aussie ratbags with names like Kafer, Finnegan and Mortlock.

Seeing our champion Crusaders crushed so easily numbed New Zealand to the almost inevitable demise of the Chiefs, who despite their savvy new coach John Mitchell, were man-handled by Bob Dwyer's very young and talented Warratah team.

Enduring another Chiefs defeat sealed a hard weekend that perhaps had it's low point with the talent-laden Hurricanes who everyone was rooting for to do well
against Queensland.

Alas it was not to be and the sight of some of world rugby's greatest
attacking assetts, - Tana Umaga, Christian Cullen and Brad Fleming - surviving on scraps wasn't pleasent. It got worse too when with the tiniest pinch of possessionthe Hurricane backs conjured two tries, one of which was pure magic.


No ball usually equals no result, and harping on about referees cannot change
that fact - actually it only serves to sour the taste of defeat even further. Gordon Slater's Hurricanes will learn from their opening defeat and when the forwards do achieve the platform they desire other teams know to look-out.-

It is best only to remember that opening weekend is just that and
a long season of Super 12 success hopefully awaits us and I would predict
the nation's pessimistic tone would have changed by this time next week especially if celebrating a weekend of Kiwi victories starts with a win at Westpac Trust Stadium against Joost Van der Westhuizen and his Northern Bulls.

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