Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rebel Rebel

If you see the score 'Chiefs 72 Lions 65' what sport do you think of - College Basketball perhaps? Wrong! It was actually an extraordinary game last night in the Super 14 Rugby tournament - Waikato Chiefs and the Johannesburg Lions.

Super 14 is one of the great under appreciated delights of the rugby season. At least three live games every weekend, and a chance to watch the best players in the Southern Hemisphere week in week out. The club, or regional, aspect actually means it's better value that the Tri-Nations in my opinion.

It's quite sobering to watch a Super 14 game back-to-back with a Premiership one. Not quite two different sports, but certain one seemingly more further along the evolutionary spectrum than the other.

One illustration - on at least ten occasions in the two Six Nations games England have played, Danny Care has paused before delivering the ball back from the base of the ruck - sometimes for up to ten seconds whilst Jonny Wilkinson readies himself, ties his bootlace and checks his hair or whatever it is he does. In the four Super 14 games I've watched so far, that's happened twice - in total. Oddly, Care does it much less for Harlequins, but then his fly half is an All Black international...

Without going into any deep technical analysis, and acknowledging that I'm by no means a rugby expert, all I can say is that Super 14 is just quicker, but quicker in such a way that defensive aggression is not diluted - apart from maybe in last night's lunatic point-fest.

Danny Cipriani's decision to try his luck in the Super 14 next season, therefore, is inspired - at least from an England point of view. It deserves a better reaction from Martin Johnson than a rather sullen 'he won't get picked for England then' type of response. Then again, apart from a fleeting five minutes in Sydney in November 2003, Johnson's default setting has always been rather humourless.

Consider that Cipriani will be earning less in Melbourne than he could by staying in the Premiership - he's also deliberately removing himself from England contention in the short term, with the view to coming back in two years time as very much the finished article - tested against the best players in the world.

For someone supposedly self-centred and immature, that's an incredibly sensible and forward thinking decision.

3 comments:

オテモヤン said...

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Mark said...

Sorry, I have to disagree - Alan Knott was a far better technical keeper than Rod Marsh.

Good point re the 1957 tour to South Africa though.

Colin the Kiwi said...

Usually all we hear from the North is Stephen Jones style carping about "real rugby" - where 1000s sit and watch two blokes trade kicks like tennis rallies. So its bloody refreshing to hear someone from your end of the world saying they actually enjoy Super Rugby. Good on ya fella!