A Weekend In New Zealand Rugby

Friday

I spent Friday churning through my guilt and sorrow, but mainly embarrassment. Here we were, warming up for a big weekend of Super Rugby action, coming into the climatic part of the season and the Auckland Blues, ah shit, not them again.

They got in quick and stole the thunder away from those who had actually earned it.

It was a very odd little thunder-stealing-show from the Blues because I didn't quite get the vibe. 

John Kirwan announced that he'd be stepping aside but there was an air of happiness, or was it relief? It certainly wasn't anything close to grief, which would have been oozing out of my pores in that situation ... here I am, a boss dog of the almighty Auckland Blues, bidding farewell to the bloke who I had plucked to save Auckland rugby. It all seemed quite chummy.

Can't blame JK for that, he's a positive dude and he tried his bestest to make this work.

I don't really know why it didn't work, but it became pretty clear that JK had woo-ed the right people. Auckland rugby silly buggers must have loved having one of their heroes coaching their glorious team, it certainly smelt like that and my worry is that this sweeps over all of the major problems within the union. 

There doesn't seem to be much kept under wraps with the Blues, they seem to leak information with a snap of their fingers to awaiting media folk who act like they've got a great scoop - nah mate, you're just a part of the crew. Which leads us to one of the worst kept secrets in kiwi rugby with Tana Umaga set to be named coach of the Blues.

I love Tana the coach, he's the man, but can he sift his way through the maze of Auckland rugby/Free Mason's? 

I don't know and neither do you, which gives us a perfect platform to view this from. He's definitely got the talent to work with and he has the talent as a coach, so this will work, right?

But fuck all that, I need to say sorry, on behalf of all of Auckland. 

I'm sorry that we stole your thunder on a Friday afternoon which should have only been about an epic encounter between the Highlanders and the Chiefs. Everyone should have been raving about that, even though it was on the Saturday night, but no, the Blues became coach-less.

So sorry, apparently New Zealand stops when the Auckland Blues are doing something, even if they resemble a stinking pile of compost ... yeah read into that metaphor.

Saturday

Boom, Saturday and it's game time.

Less Auckland, more Dunedin.

Less empty seats, more raging students.

Less Eden Park, more purpose built glasshouse which makes for a nutty atmosphere.

The more Aaron Smith we get the better, well.......

That game between the Highlanders and the Chiefs was quite something else and for mine it reflected the changing of the guard in rugby on our shores. We've had a bit of a change in the winds with the Chiefs by far the dominant team of the past few years in conjuncture with the Crusaders at various stages, but now we have the Highlanders and the Hurricanes.

It's beautiful.

Sunday

All Blacks, less petty local rugby shenanigans and more All Blacks!

You might have guessed by my vague-ness that rugby is a bit meh, ya know? Like it's all a bit mental how mental we get for rugby, but it's just the way it is.

Or is that just how I feel after enduring all this bullshit that I've had to endure as an Aucklander, feeling so far removed from the rugby team that used to draw me to the terraces every weekend as a youngin'.

What ever happened to the terraces?

Oh yeah, those blokes in the suits. 

The Super Rugby season is coming to a climax and I don't want to disrespect it in anyway shape or form, but Sunday had me feeling some sort of way.

That aura of the All Blacks appeared, sure, the naming of the 41-man squad was a bit dramatic and I'm sure that Steve Hansen has low key mastered the art of being dramatic, but it's time for the All Blacks, well almost. 

We are in a World Cup year and the rugby playing world is watching, they are waiting for the All Blacks to pop their head up, to show some of what they've got. And what we've got is 41 men who all thoroughly deserve to be international rugby players; we've got blokes the world hasn't seen before and we've got some of the best in the business.

Faumuina, Franks x2, Woodcock, Rettalick, Whitelock, Cane, McCaw, Kaino, Vito, Messam and Read.

That my friends is a who's who of international rugby forwards calling the upper echelon, home.

We've got the best, but we are the hunted and we don't really know how the other nations will suit up.

These next few weeks/months are going to be very interesting as the All Blacks and all the other major nations will be in the shop window, but won't be showing off all their latest gears. They'll be hiding a few tricks, not playing their full hand and it's going to be fun.

Sunday got me excited, but so did Saturday. They both sparked a fire within me that had been dampened by the silly Auckland buggers. 

I'm ready. I'm ready to see who is the best Super Rugby team and I'm ready to get balls deep in some international rugby.