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Fast Paced Start To Super Rugby

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Fast Paced Start To Super Rugby

Fast Paced Start To Super Rugby

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DESPITE some breath taking action, it’s the card debate that has predictably dominated the headlines post our first full weekend OF Super Rugby 2018.  
 
Having made significant gains in the battle against spinal injuries, rugby has now declared war on head shots, and with good cause. 
 
Just in case you’re tempted to join the “Bring Back the Biff-It’s Not Tiddlywinks brigade and tweet your outrage, go back and read Dylan Cleavers brilliant but heart-breaking series in the Herald on the dreadful consequences of repeat concussions. Then think again.
 
First things first, the game is NOT going soft. The velocity of rugby, the physicality, the intensity of the contact, has never been greater. Players have never been bigger, more muscular and more athletic. And never have we had so many forced into retirement from head trauma. 
 
What rugby has done, in the past 30 years since the damning cervical spinal stats found their way into the public, is to (gradually) develop a conscience, and a need to protect the welfare of its greatest assets, the players.
 
Laws have been toughened up and rightly so, but every now and then we are going to have debate as to whether those laws, and their application, have gone too far, and become too inflexible.
 
To try and keep things as black and white as possible the refs have tried to take words like “intent”, and “slipped-up” and “falling into the tackle” out of consideration. It’s all about where contact with made and whether there was force.
 
For the most part, it’s working. The players are getting the message. Antonio Kiri Kiri will know that in not taking due care, he severely compromised his team’s chances in Dunedin, and that will hurt him more than anything.
 
But then you get a case like Lachlan Boshier. Because it was in the act of scoring a try it fell into the category of “if it’s a yellow card it must be a penalty try, or vice versa” way of thinking. One or the other, for sure, but the double whammy did seem a bit harsh. 
 
Maybe that needs a bit of a rethink.
 
Other than that, all we can ask for is consistency.
 
Power Rankings Week One:
New Zealand Conference
 
1) Highlanders. Came out on top of a quite exhilarating season opener in Dunedin. For all the great attack in this game, it was the way they defended at the key times, and the precision with which the pin point Aaron Smith kicking game kept the Blues back in the own half when the game was in the balance. An excellent start for Aaron Mauger, and good to see a bit of Southern Style celebration in the box afterwards. Speights mate?
2) Crusaders: pulled away with two late tries after the Boshier card to go straight to the top of the New Zealand conference, but had two binned themselves, hence second in PR. But still a very good start to their title defence.
3) The Blues had more ball, and better attack stats across the board, but after a good first 40, lost a bit of direction on attack in the second. Just need to learn to control the big moments a bit better and they should have a better season. 
4) Chiefs were right in the game before that big call was made. The D-Mack experiment needs time, he is an extraordinary talent, but he has always shown a tendency to throw 50-50 passes and it will need to be sorted if he’s to succeed in the pivot role.
5) The Hurricanes were slow out of the blocks and sloppy, but came back well, and were a tad hard done with a couple of big calls that didn’t go their way. Too soon for Hurricanes fans to get antsy but they will want a win in Buenos Aires this weekend to right the ship before it takes on any water.
 
Australian Conference.
 
The Waratahs eased a few early season nerves with a late win, even if it was handed to them by the Stormers, the Brumbies battled, but got the job done against the Sunwolves and the Rebels took full toll of an under manned Reds team that looks set for enough of a struggle without getting players red carded. 
If anything they got the cards round the wrong way, and just how Brendan Pickerall was persuaded by his mates not to send off Lukhan Tui for an out and out spear tackle will no doubt have been discussed on the Monday conference call.
 
South Africa
 
History tells us that it will end in tears, but the Bulls got their journey under John Mitchell off to a confidence boosting start over the Hurricanes. The Lions again appeal as a very good side, and the Stormers should be in the mix, and if they’d been a bit smarter would have got out of Sydney with a draw.