With Sevens stars Tyla Nathan-Wong, Portia Woodman and Stacey Fluhler all a chance to line out alongside established Black Ferns Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Kennedy Simon and Chelsea Alley, Saturday’s Waikato vs. Northland fixture to open the 2020 Farah Palmer Cup will be the perfect introduction to a star-studded tournament.Continue reading “2020 Farah Palmer Cup preview”
One of the most common refrains heard from commentators on rugby in New Zealand is that, for the nation’s governing body, it’s “always…all about the dollars“.Continue reading “Steinlager North v South preview”
Without Beauden Barrett in their squad for the first time in a decade, head coach John Plumtree having left the franchise for Ian Foster’s All Blacks coaching team and with Ardie Savea injured on the sideline, the Hurricanes can almost be forgiven for starting 2020 with a whimper. An unedifying 27-0 loss to the Stormers at Newlands in which they weren’t able to fire a shot felt like an apt metaphor for a club still scrambling to find its feet as the season kicked off.
However, after sneaking a late victory over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires a week later – thanks in large part to Beauden’s younger brother Jordie, who finished the match with a 63m penalty kick and try-saving tackle to his name – they were away, and home wins over the Sharks and Sunwolves swiftly followed.Continue reading “Super Rugby Aotearoa: what to expect from the Hurricanes”
Situated in the smallest of the 5 urban centres to support a Super Rugby franchise and over 300 kilometres to the south of their nearest competitor, the Highlanders are in an unenviable position relative to the other New Zealand clubs.
The Dunedin side has consistently been reliant on bringing in players from other provinces to supplement those from its own catchment area – aided by the fact that it is a student town with a strong university rugby club – and with a steady period of good recruitment and “continuity” in the later years of the Jamie Joseph-Tony Brown-Scott McLeod ticket, they were able to challenge consistently at the top end of the Super competition.
However, in the 3 years since Brown and McLeod departed – the former joining Joseph with Japan, having succeeded him as head coach for a season, and the latter moving into a position with the All Blacks – there has been significant turnover and disruption. Although Brown has returned to Dunedin for the 2020 season as an assistant – and brought some exciting ideas back with him from the Brave Blossoms – Aaron Mauger has had to watch on as the majority of their title-winning side of 2015 departs for overseas clubs.Continue reading “Super Rugby Aotearoa: what to expect from the Highlanders”
With the end of 2019 came a changing of the guard in Christchurch. The departures of Kieran Read and Tim Bateman – whose time at the franchise was broken up by stints at the Hurricanes and in Japan – saw the final threads between the current Crusaders’ playing squad and the Robbie Deans era broken, both players having started the 2008 final victory over the Waratahs.
A number of other household names also moved on: between them, Owen Franks, Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg contributed a substantial proportion of the 380 All Blacks caps and 1,009 Crusaders appearances which left Rugby Park at the conclusion of last season.Continue reading “Super Rugby Aotearoa: what to expect from the Crusaders”
Upon his return to Hamilton after 13 years in Wales, new Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland made clear his views on the need for the franchise to evolve its on-field approach:
“[T]he Chiefs have tended to go out there and play and expansive game, and we want to encourage them to do that, but we also want them to be smart…talking to the other coaches, they’ve felt that in the last couple of years they’ve tried to play a little bit too much rugby, and haven’t been smart about having the balance between playing a little bit of territory and putting pressure on other teams.”Super Rugby: Warren Gatland wants Chiefs to play smarter brand of footy
He clearly implemented a number of tactical changes in the team’s 6 games before the Super Rugby competition’s suspension, and this was accompanied with markedly improved performance relative to last year: the Chiefs are 4-0-2 with an average points margin of +11.0 per game, after finishing Colin Cooper’s final season with a mark of -1.1 and a record of 7-2-8.Continue reading “Super Rugby Aotearoa: what to expect from the Chiefs”
As the only Kiwi franchise not to have won Super Rugby outright in the last 8 seasons, the Blues will have been more disappointed than most when the 2020 iteration of the competition was halted after 7 rounds as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sitting with a 5-0-2 record at its premature conclusion, their average scoring margin of +8.3 points per game over their 7 fixtures would have comfortably been their best single-season mark since 2012; their highest figure over this 8-year period is the +2.7 points per game they achieved in 2017.Continue reading “Super Rugby Aotearoa: what to expect from the Blues”
The sun rises in spite of everything. After weeks of deprivation and uncertainty, hope has appeared on the horizon – or, at least, to those European rugby fans willing to set their alarms early on coming weekend mornings.
Whether you’re a Super Rugby regular who has risen ritualistically for years to watch the likes of Larkham, Carter and du Preez or a casual fan of the sport, the advent of Super Rugby Aotearoa is a heady prospect. The ten-week double-round-robin competition featuring the five New Zealand franchises – the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes – kicks off next Saturday at 6:05am (UK time), with a number of interesting rule variations.Continue reading “What to expect from Super Rugby Aotearoa”
This morning’s win over the Highlanders in Dunedin was the Sharks’ 5th – to go with 1 draw – in their last 10 Super Rugby matches against Kiwi opponents (spanning the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons); 2 of those wins (and the single draw) have come away from home.
The Durban side have consistently matched up well with New Zealand franchises over the last few years: their average points margin in games on NZ soil over that period is +1.7 per 80 mins, with other overseas teams averaging -11.6 points per game across 2018-20. (They have also been significantly better than average at home against Kiwi teams. Their average margin in those games is +9.0; against all other touring franchises in Durban, it is +1.8.)
How have they achieved this success?
Only a few months have passed since the end of the World Cup, but at the outset of the 2020 Super Rugby season – with some of the most familiar names of the last decade absent from the field of play, and without the long shadow cast by Steve Hansen as international head coach – there has already been significant change in the New Zealand rugby landscape.
After placing the national team’s performance over the last four years in its context, it is necessary to look in more detail at the specifics of their 2019 World Cup campaign and at lower levels of the game in the country. Where do the All Blacks go from here?