RE: Beeno..didn't you warn the Kiwi's some time ago??
July 15, 2013, 22:13:38
Worrying signs from the Super 15
The Super 15 table makes for interesting reading this year for Kiwi rugby fans.
The Crusaders and Chiefs have taken much of the headlines this season, and rightly so.
But both their Super 15 success, and the All Blacks’ continued domination might be overshadowing a worrying trend from this year’s competition.
Outside of the Chiefs and Crusaders, the remaining New Zealand sides were disappointing.
The Highlanders were an embarrassment this year, never summed up more than their last match as the Rebels scored 31 second half points to down them in Melbourne.
The Blues too, despite a solid start, lost their final six games in a row.
And the Hurricanes went one better (or worse) by not recording a win in any of the final seven weeks of the season.
So is this just a blip, or something more alarming?
To be fair to the Blues, even though they lost 10 games this year, every Blues fan will tell you this season was a huge improvement from the shambles under Pat Lam last season.
The two knights – John and Ted – seem to be building towards a team that may be able to challenge for silverware in the coming seasons.
But for the Highlanders and Hurricanes, 2013 marked a season where both franchises took several huge steps back.
Last year, both teams were close to making the playoffs, but this time around neither ever really looked like they were going to make a serious push for finals rugby.
For the Highlanders in particular it was a disaster, with All Blacks Aaron Smith and Ma’a Nonu enjoying nightmare domestic seasons and at times the entire team looked lost for answers.
Only the new boys, the Southern Kings, kept them from getting the wooden spoon.
About the only bright spark for the side was the scintillating form of Ben Smith.
Coach Jamie Joseph’s signings have to be questioned when he put so much stock in Nonu and fellow ageing veterans Brad Thorn, Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore, who have all flattered to deceive this season.
Woodcock’s continued selection helped force Jamie Mackintosh north to the Chiefs.
With Woodcock’s days rapidly being numbered, you have to wonder at the long-term planning in allowing Mackintosh to join a rival side.
And Mark Hammett should be feeling a little nervous. When you purge the team of stars like he did back in 2011, you had better back that up with better results.
Finishing ninth, eighth and 11th doesn’t cut it.
The return of Cory Jane will help, but they desperately need to re-sign Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea, and they will need to get last season’s joint-top try scorer Andre Taylor back to top form.
Add to this the Baby Blacks' worst ever performance at the Under-20s World Championships, and the future isn't looking so bright.
The NZRU is a long way from needing to hit the panic button, but they will hope this season doesn’t repeat itself too often.
So was this year a blip?
Or do we need to look at how we develop our players and our coaches to ensure our continued success on the professional stage?
After all, success on the international stage can't be maintained if there isn't enough support at the grassroots levels.