Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Super Rugby: Improved Blues face mighty Hurricanes

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Having deservedly overcome the previously unbeaten Stormers 33-10 in Cape Town, the Blues face an even sterner test of their Super Rugby talent against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

That latest win, following their triumph against the Bulls in Pretoria, can be attributed to the return of Otere Black to first-five and the success of converting Steven Perofeta to fullback where they have contributed to a far more cohesive backline.

Black is not a fancy attacker, but he has an astute rugby brain and an accurate kick which succeeded with four penalties and converted all three of the Blues tries scored by Joe Marchant (2) and Dalton Papalii.

Given more space at fullback where his sidestep and slick pass bring rich reward, Perofeta has adjusted nicely to his new position. Throw in Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea  and Englishman Marchant and it’s a backline possessed of pace and penetration.

However with powerful Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso combining brilliantly in the centres during the Hurricanes 62-15 thrashing of the Sunwolves, the Blues defence will need to be excellent in Wellington next Saturday.

Add to them inspirational halfback TJ Perenara, slippery fullback Chase Tiatia and big wingers Kobus van Wyk and Ben Lam and they have awesome strike power.

In scoring three tries against the Sunwolves, determined South African van Wyk showed off a smart sidestep and fend.

Their forwards have also exceeded expectations. But they can expect the Blues pack to offer far sterner opposition than the Sunwolves were capable of.

Meanwhile it was good to see Joseph Parker score a fifth round technical knockout win over Shawndell Winters in Frisco, Texas, after he had been inactive for the best part of a year.

That is too long in a sport which demands frequent action to prevent ring rust and loss of fitness and timing of punches.

However Parker got it right when an excellent four-punch combination nearly put Winters through the ropes in the fifth after a crunching right floored the American in the third.

Unfortunately in his eagerness to demonstrate his punching power, Parker failed to box as well as he can against a wily opponent who was no patsie.

Consequently he got caught in too many clinches against a 39-year-old former cruiserweight who conceded considerable weight.

Parker is not an in-fighter and is at his best when he uses his excellent left jab extensively. Nor is he a one-punch knockout artist like David Tua was with his lethal left hook.

However he does have fast reflexes and is capable of putting opponents away with his combinations, as he did in the fifth against Winters.

That performance won’t scare Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury who need to unify the world heavyweight championship by fighting in a winner-take-all bout.

Meanwhile I ended up with egg on my face last week when reporting on Tyson’s win against Wilder, I wrote Fury’s corner threw in the towel when in fact it was Wilder’s.

Be assured I am having my senility checked and have asked my proofreader to see an optician.

That will have to wait until former WBC king Deontay Wilder exercises his right to have a third crack at Fury.


Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer


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