Thursday, April 18, 2024

Super Rugby: Jordie steps up for AB’s no 15

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Having outplayed the mercurial Damian McKenzie in the Hurricanes’ last-minute 27-24 Super Rugby win against the Chiefs, Jordie Barrett served notice to brother Beauden that he doesn’t own the All Blacks’ No 15 jersey either.

Whether Jordie gets it could depend on whether the selectors will retain Richie Mounga at first five or return Beauden there once the coronavirus threat is gone.

Meanwhile with Super Rugby suspended because of the pandemic, fullback and first-five are two positions where the All Blacks have tremendous depth in which the leading candidates are all capable of playing top footy at test level.

The daring McKenzie was the first choice until injury wrecked his World Cup prospects last year and Beauden Barrett stepped into the berth, just as he did at the 2015 World Cup when Dan Carter reigned as first-five.

McKenzie is a brave, exciting player who does everything at full pace but sometimes takes risks others wouldn’t dare.

Although he’s a brave defender, he’s not as strong a tackler as the Barrett brothers who also have considerable attacking flair with Beauden twice named International Player of the Year.

Having previously starred as a second-five before converting to fullback, the rangy Jordie is enjoying his best season during a year in which his brother had hoped to make his Blues debut as a first-five on April 11.

In the meantime Otere Black has made a good fist of the position outside impressive halfback Sam Nock who was outstanding in the Blues six-try 42-10 truimph against Lions who have become pussycats.

Much credit for the Blues’ five wins from seven games deserves to go to Leon MacDonald who has formed a strong coaching partnership with Tana Umaga and Tom Coventry.

MacDonald has brought with him a Crusaders work ethic and discipline. Umaga has tighened the defence and Coventry has injected fire into the bellies of his forwards.

In the absence of Patrick Tuipolutu, TJ Faiane played a splendid captain’s knock against the Lions in a midfield partnership with speedy Rieko Ioane whose two-try contribution confirmed his improvement at centre.

Meanwhile the Northern Mystics had cause to celebrate their 59-55 local derby netball win against the Northern Stars in which towering 18-year-old goal shoot Grace Nweke goaled 40 from 43 attempts despite tight, double marking.

With the Stars Maia Wilson notching 40 from 45 following her outstanding performances for the Silver Ferns upon the immaculate Maria Folau’s retirement, our goal shooting remains in good hands.

Add to that fellow international Ameliaranne Ekenasio’s 18/22 and Aliyah Dunn’s 35/38 for the champion Central Pulse in their 53-41 win against the Mainland Tactics and the depth is encouraging.

Only fitness issues stopped Dunn from winning Ferns honours last year but she’s a cool customer under fire with age on her side.

While most fans will lament the suspension of their sport, it probably was a relief for cricket fans who were gutted by the Black Caps gutless first game ODI loss to Australia.

Magic at home against India and clueless against Australia on Aussie wickets, the team is an enigma which flatters to deceive.

Which is more than one can say about the NZ Warriors rugby league side who equate consistency with failure.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer 

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