Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ivan’s angle: Gatland’s Chiefs made of the right stuff

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Coach Warren Gatland would have relished his Chiefs 25-15 Super Rugby win against Scott Robertson’s champion Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday night.

It proved his gutsy team is made of the right stuff and that the Crusaders, for all their depth, are not as good as they were before they lost several All Blacks after last year’s World Cup.

Still full credit to the Chiefs who have relished the return of former Wales and British and Irish Lions coach Gatland and tactical genius Aaron Cruden from his stint in France.

Add to that the daredevil brilliance of speedy fullback Damian McKenzie after a long spell recuperating from knee surgery although I do wish he’d shy clear of the gorillas when it comes to a bit of biff and bash.

Throw in second-five Anton Lienert-Brown, halfback Brad Webber and wings Solomon Alaimalo and Sean Wainui and the Chiefs have a backline capable of stinging anyone.

However it has been the loose forward combination of Lachlan Boshier, Sam Cane and Mitch Karpic that has impressed most as they forage for the ball and make their tackles in come-from-behind wins against the Blues and Crusaders.

In the tradition of Richie McCaw, Boshier made a remarkable five turnovers against the Crusaders team once renowned for their ability to pilfer the ball when Matt Todd and Kieran Read reigned supreme.

Meanwhile the Blues have unearthed an exciting wing in powerful Mark Telea who scored a hat-trick in their well-deserved 32-12 win against the Waratahs in Sydney.

Pacey centre Joe Marchant also ran a lovely line to score one that suggests the English international has much to offer his adopted team.

For the second week in a row hard-running No 8 Hoskins Sotutu showed he deserved his start ahead of gifted Akira Ioane who will be champing at the bit to get more game time.

A great run and pass from Ngani Laumape for a Jamie Booth try clinched the Hurricanes a 26-23 win against the tiring Jaguares which represented a big improvement on the hiding they received from the Stormers in week one.

Having beaten the Bulls 13-0, the Stormers sit top of the table on nine points, one ahead of the Chiefs, Brumbies and Sharks who are also unbeaten.

Having scored five tries in trouncing the Highlanders 42-20 in Dunedin, the Sharks look especially dangerous with speedy fullback Aphelele Fassi and wing Makazole Mapimpi each bagging two tries.

Fears that South Africa will join the Six Nations championships and leave the Rugby Championship in the lurch don’t hold substance with new New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson who points to a strong relationship and trust between the two countries.

According to the Daily Mail the Springboks will quit the Rugby Championship in 2024 after the next World Cup.

It is not the first time a British newspaper has deemed fiction more interesting than fact. However the two-hour trip to Britain should appeal to South Africa, not to mention a great deal more money to be made by playing where population dwarfs that of New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Meanwhile it’s been wonderful to see cricketers Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls open in such a positive way and have Ross Taylor and Tom Latham perform at their best to give the Black Caps an unassailable 2-0 ODI lead against India.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sportswriter.

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