Which Super 14 side should I support?

Ok, the Super 14 is about to start. In two weeks time the ball shall be kicked and everyone shall be supporting his/her side.

If you just have slightly got the idea of this blog, you won't need me to tell you that I only consider New Zealand sides, but anyway, which New Zealand side should I pick?

This is a very appealing side to me. I like Nick Evans and Joe Rocokoco and I think that Isa Nacewa is going to play a fundamental role for New Zealand in years to come. Besides 2007 Air New Zealand Cup showed how strong Auckland's youngsters are. Thus, they combine players I like and a lot of potential.

Well, the Chiefs would certainly be a good option: they have Stephen Donald, Leonard,... but I think I just could never back someone called "Chief". Should they change their name to "Thiefs" it would be all funnier and I would probably change my mind. History says that the Maori Kingdom created around 1880 was founded in this region and thus the name and symbol of the Chiefs are a maori chief. It's wonderful but... Why did they choose a pakeha word for the team? Interestingly, maori had no word for "King" before the arrival of the europeans, and the movement to appoint a maori chief was called "Kingitanga".

I can't choose the Crusaders. I just cannot. I like the players (Carter, McCaw, Williams, McDonald...) I like the coach... but they are just too successful for me. I could not support the L.A. Lakers nor Roger Federer, so I think I won't be backing the Crusaders.

This is a very interesting option. They have got probably the most capped pack (together with the Crusaders) and their skipper is a player I couldn't like more: Rodney So'oialo. Besides, the great Umaga played for the Hurricanes.

These would have been my last year's choice. In a place whose name reminds me of my favourite book, Nick Evans played for th Highlanders until last season. They used to be a very strong franchise but have somewhat struggled for the last 4 or 5 years... And the future does not look very appealing...

So, Blues, Highlanders or Hurricanes? I think I'm going to support Hurricanes and Blues and perhaps will flip a coin to see who I back on week 14, May the 16th.

This is my choice: What is yours?

BTW: According to the ngata online dictionary, the word in maori for chief is "rangatira"

Over AU$ 1 Million for Stirling Mortlock

Could you refuse AU$ 1 million per year if you were offered?

Surprisingly (to me), not everyone named Mortlock as the best possible 13 in RugbyForum's poll. It is not me the one who's going to put Mortlock's name ahead of Umaga's but this is only the humble opinion of an All Black supporter.

An unnamed japanese club, however, must think that I am right to consider him one of the best centres around, as it has offered AU$ 1.25 million to the wallabies skipper. Maybe Larkham knows a little bit more about the matter, if we read between the lines.

Well, tough decission for Mortlock, ain't it? Perhaps the wallabies need him, but didn't they need Larkham as well? When will come the time for Mortlock to say farewell? Will he be offered anything better? For how long will the wallabies need him?

If Mortlock leaves, it will be a hard blow for the wallabies, but an oportunity as well. Deans task is going to be difficult anyway, but without him, a free space to find new talents is open.

As with Doug Howlett, Stephen Larkham or Chris Jack, I feel that the right time has come for Mortlock to point at somewhere else. If he stays, it will be ok, but if he has got to leave, now is better than ever.

Busy rugby February

For rugby lovers, february is meant to be a busy month: Super 14, IRB Sevens, Six Nations...

Do you know what should you put attention to and when?

Jan 28, monday:
Jan 29, tuesday:
Jan 30, wednesday:
Jan 31, thursday:
  • Super 14 Preseason: Blues - Reds 19:00, Ballymore
  • Super 14 Preseason: Bulls B - Lions B, 19:00 Wits

Feb 01, friday:

  • Super 14 Preseason: Brumbies - Waratahs 19:00, Gosford
  • Super 14 Preseason: Sharks - Cheetahs, Bloemfontein

Feb 02, saturday:

  • IRB Sevens Series NZ: pool stage 13:00-22:00 , Wellington
  • 6 Nations: Ireland - Italy 14:00, Dublin
  • 6 Nations: England - Wales 16:30London
  • Super 14 Preseason: West Force - Crusaders , Melbourne
  • Super 14 Preseason: Hurricanes - Chiefs 16:00, Taupo
  • Super 14 Preseason: Lions - Bulls, Windhoek

Feb 03, sunday:

  • IRB Sevens Series NZ: finals 13:00 -21:00, Wellington
  • 6 Nations: Scotland - France 15:00, Edinburgh

Feb 04, monday:
Feb 05, tuesday:
Feb 06, wednesday:

  • Super 14 Preseason: Lions - Sharks, Durban

Feb 07, thursday:

  • Super 14 Preseason: Crusaders - Waratahs, Sydney
  • Super 14 Preseason: West Force - Reds, Perth

Feb 08, friday:

  • Super 14 Preseason: Brumbies - Hurricanes 19:00, Levin
  • Super 14 Preseason: Blues - Highlanders 17:00, Dunedin

Feb 09, saturday:

  • IRB Sevens Series, USA: pool stage 10:00 - 19:00, San Diego, CF
  • 6 Nations: Wales - Scotland 14:00, Cardiff
  • 6 Nations: France - Ireland 15:00, Paris

Feb 10, sunday:

  • IRB Sevens Series, USA: finals 10:00 - 18:00, San Diego, CF
  • 6 Nations: Italy - England 15:30, Rome

Feb 11, monday:
Feb 12, tuesday:
Feb 13, wednesday:
Feb 14, thursday:
Feb 15, friday:

  • Start of the Super 14 Season!!!

Note: All times and dates are local times and dates

The haka too commercial?

A few weeks ago, during the Rugby World Cup, there was a debate in the New Zealand Herald about the haka. It is always the same: the Rugby World Cup draws attention of millions of people, millions of people get to know rugby for the first time, they fall in love with the haka.

The discussion about the haka was whether the haka has become too commercial. I think this scottish advert can show my point of view:

This advert is also very good:

More power on the scrum and... happier backs?

It's not only Keohane that states that the ELVs are putting more emphasis in good scrummaging. Blues hooker Keven Mealamu also thinks that easing scrums on own feed and difficulting scrums on opponent's feed can mean a definitive edge.

While the South African journalist believes the new laws will benefit the South African sides, Mealamu does not risk any such prediction.

On the other side, the first pre-Season duel among two Super 14 sides has witnessed a Crusaders side triumph over the Chiefs. It is important to recall that both teams have experienced men in their full-of-All Blacks packs. The score, 55 - 33 could mean nothing at all or could be explained by this extra space after the scrum that the ELVs provide.

Are we at the gates of a more spectacular rugby? Or are we just at the pre-Season? Can a new law put more emphasis in scrummaging and still be a bless for hungry-at-tries backs?

Rugbycan blog is right; South Africans should not be so confident on their scrums

(Update at 21:12 GMT: Robbie Deans considers ELVs should reward expansive rugby)

(Update at Jan 28, 10:18 GMT: Robbie Deans enthusiastic about ELVs)

(Update at Jan 29, 09:04 GMT: ELVs get the pass mark of coaches and refferees)

Laurie Fischer does not want to help Deans.

Yesterday we were surprised at Robbie Deans' proposal of a plan for all 4 Australian Super 14 sides coaches to be involved in Wallabies players selection.

Today, Brumbies coach, Laurie Fischer has been very harsh on Deans proposal. Apparently Laurie Fischer does not have anything against helping the Wallabies, but he does have it against helping the Crusaders coach.

"I certainly won't be discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of my players until he has finished up with the Crusaders in the Super 14. You are talking about two sides here who could be in the Super 14 final."

Laurie Fischer was among the candidates for the Wallabies coach role when NZRU selection of Graham Henry left Robbie Deans "available" although he still had a one-year contract with the Crusaders. The ARU immediately added Robbie Deans to the list of candidates and eventually he got the job. NZRU allowed Deans to keep his Crusaders coaching job until the end of the present season and perhaps Fischer thinks Deans is going too far away

This arises some question as if retaining the Crusaders job was a good idea for Deans. I think Deans should have resigned perhaps even before the outcome of the Rugby World Cup, at the end of Super 14 2007 season. I don't doubt he can still do a wonderful job for the Crusaders but, won't everything be easier for him as Wallabies coach when he is not bound to the Crusaders?

Weekend games

These are the schedule and lineups known for this weekend Super 14 pre-season games:

Jan 26, Invercargill, 14:30 (01:30 GMT)

Chiefs: Craig West, Vern Kamo, Ben May, Jono Gibbes (captain), Toby Lynn, Faifili Levave, Tom Harding, Sione Lauaki, Jamie Nutbrown, Tasesa Lavea, Viliame Waqaseduadua, Callum Bruce, Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga, Mils Muliaina
Highlanders: Paul Williams , Brett Mather , Johnny Leota , Aaron Bancroft , Fetu'u Vainikolo, Daniel Bowden, Jimmy Cowan (c) , Steven Setephano , Tim Boys , Adam Thomson , Tom Donnelly , Isaac Ross , Clint Newland , David Hall, Chris King.

Jan 25, Motueka, 17.30 (04.30 GMT)

Crusaders: (no line-up given yet)
Hurricanes: Shannon Paku, Hosea Gear, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Tamati Ellison, Zac Guildford, Jimmy Gopperth, Alby Mathewson, Thomas Waldrom, Scott Waldrom, Michael Johnson, Bernie Upton, Jeremy Thrush, Tim Fairbrother, Hika Elliott, John Schwalger.

What are your predictions?

English rugby and the Hundred Years War

The action is close to start and we are all waiting for the first games to see how the New Zealand franchises crush their rivals... Well, we would like it, would not we?

In the meantime, in the Northern Hemisphere they are all waiting for the Six Nations, which happens to start a week earlier than the Super 14. Thus, I have found myself engaged in a conversation about Jonny Wilkinson and what he has meant to rugby. Today, as the bus got me to my jobplace, I suddenly realised that I could compare Wilkinson's impact in present rugby to ellite bowmen in warfare during the Hundred Years War!!!!

Well, yes, I might be going crazy, but I might be right, too. Just don't call me crazy yet. I am passionate about History and the Hundred Years War happens to be a very interesting episode of human history, where a lot of things changed. In fact, it set the roots to abandon the Middle Age and to enter into the Renaissance. Politically, it kept England out of the continent and that meant something, but socially (and I think this is the least known consequence but the most important one) it changed how social classes mattered.

Although England lost almost all its lands in France once the war was over (and how could that not have happened?), England showed the value of a well defended stronghold, with no other aid than simple people with simple weapons like bows, but with a proper training, making them english bowmen. "Simple men" might not be the best word to frighten anyone but "English bowmen" sounds a bit more fearful, does not it? Well, that weapon defeated many times the so-called ultimate weapon, the French chivalry, and that was the cause for nobility to start losing part of its ascendancy (if the knight was no longer so decissive, knights were less important... and the only ones who afforded a horse and knight's weaponry were noblesmen, so it was a hard blow on nobility, after all). So the focus went to the simple men... and from this to Renassaince!!!!!

But coming back to teams of 15 men... What on the hell has it got to do with Jonny Wilkinson and England? Well, let me be simple: Jonny Wilkinson is the bowman (or perhaps the whole legion of bowmen) and then, the task of the remaining 14 is easy: they are the fortress.

We were discussing at RugbyCan about the impact that Jonny Wilkinson had in rugby. I totally agree with the author and I must add one thing: "Having him as the only striking weapon, the rest of the team has only one main goal: to build the stronghold".

Though not really appealing, this strategy has led England throughout the RWC to become runner-ups. Not so bad for a side who managed to score only 12 tries, is not it? (last time New Zealand met tonga, the All Blacks went to score the same amount of tries). They only lost when they found a forward pack as strong as theirs; In other words, the stronghold fell against another stronghold.

Here I don't pretend to open anybody's eyes. Long time ago New Zealand thinking heads realised that in order to preserve the immense power of the back-row alive and usable, a stronger forward pack was mandatory. I still think New Zealand has the strongest forward pack in the world (even without Hayman and Jack) but what I find genuine is this way of seeing England's contribution to the game in the early 21st century.

BTW, I have always compared rugby to war, and what I consider most beautiful is a "New Zealand tank" breaking the line, be it a McAlisterkampfwagen or a Lomu Mark II.

All Blacks and statistics

If one takes a close look to the All Blacks test statistics can be more or less surprised to see what a superb record they have against any test nation. Of course, there is no single test nation with such record.

One can compare the All Blacks to others sports leaders statistics. Can we compare the All Blacks to the best NBA team? to Roger Federer?

Let's do it:

The All Blacks have played 429 games from 1903 on. Of these, 318 ended with an All Black win. That makes a 74.13% winning percentage. As of January 2008 it stands:

All Blacks Rugby 429 318 74.13%
Real Madrid Football 2402 1379 57,41%
Los Angeles Lakers Basketball 4647 2848 61,29%
Garry Kasparov Chess 1862 872 46,83%
Roger Federer Tennis 685 551 80,44%

So, as it is shown, the All Blacks are amongst the best teams in their own sports. It must be said that some sports like boxing and chess are really difficult to compare to any other sport. Chess nature makes draw a pretty common score while there can't be any draws in basketball at all. On the other hand, boxers usually compete combat after combat in a ladder-like system (i.e. facing tougher enemies every time).

I would like to point out that although Roger Federer may be seen as more successful than the All Blacks (not only because of his record, but also based on Grand Slams tournaments won compared to Rugby World Cup rating success), no team has a positive record against the All Blacks while they do have a positive record against every team. Roger Federer, on the contrary has a negative score against some players, most notably Rafael Nadal who leads 8 to 6 all time against the swiss.

Missing Howlett

Last Saturday evening (Ireland's time), Munster defeated Wasps in-route to get their tenth consecutive qualifying for the European Cup quarter-finals.

Playing his second game as starter with Munster, former All Black Doug Howlett did not have many chances to get into play, but he gave us a pair of pearls in two actions late in the second half: a massive tackle of a Wasp centre after he caught a kicked ball that stopped any chance of an english counter-attack and the only line-break of the match (which was not followed by his teammates) in a rainy and muddy field, certainly not the best conditions for a winger to enjoy.

Meanwhile, it seems that Welsh franchises are very fond of every single New Zealander playing for their teams. Not only for their individual contributions, but also for the way the local players have grown learning from them. "Our players have learned a lot from them, probably more than they get off us as coaches" said Cardiff Blues coach David Young.

Back in New Zealand, no other than Joe Rocokoco has recently said how much the Auckland Blues side is going to miss Howlett. Being top try scorer in both Super 14 and the All Blacks is not an easy feat, but above any record Doug Howlett may have, he will be mostly missed on his professionalism, expertise and companionship.

For my part I can only feel as if last Saturday I had seen some diamond amid the mud and water of Munster... And I wonder what takes a diamond to the Northern Hemisphere. First Super 14 post-Howlett season has not started and we are already looking to find him.
Douggie, we will miss you a full lot.

Super 14 drawing near and near...

Super 14 rugby pre-season has started this week with the easy win of the Stormers over the Boland Cavaliers by 72-10. For the next three weeks we will have plenty of oportunities to see the new faces of all teams in their way to the start of the Super 14 2008 season.

Meanwhile, Blues coach David Nucifora has given his views on the new laws and their effect on the game.

As Nucifora sees things (and he's one to be listened to) the most affected area will be the tackle. Here are some excerpts of his opinions:

"It will be very, very quick around that tackle area in some instances".
"You are going to have players out of the game a lot quicker because the offside line is being drawn a lot quicker".
"From what we've seen from other games, the ball will be in play for longer".

Blues coach has an immense task ahead within these four weeks prior to the kick off of the new season. Besides from usual tasks of getting the players fit and trying the new schemes, selecting a starting 15 and choosing the best combination of backs (Evans, Nacewa, Toeava... are all very versatile players) will require an extra effort for the Blues coach.

6 Nations: Euphoria on english supporters

For the first time in four long years England's facing the 6 Nations Tournament with expectation, with anxiety, with... euphoria.

Held every year since it's origins back in 1883, the Six Nations is the time of the year that every scottish, irish, french, english and welsh rugby aficionado should love to watch (hm... italians too, but maybe not that much), but english fans have been somewhat reluctant to put too much hope on the tournament lately, as the idea of facing every time the tough tournament without superstar first five eighths Jonny Wilkinson was certainly not appealing to them.

This year, a lot of new changes have made England a completely new team:

  1. They "unexpectedly" reached the RWC final. That has given them confidence.
  2. A number of senior players (Robinson, Dallaglio...) have finished their international careers. This will make things easier for Ashton.
  3. Another number of players (Cipriani, Vainikolo...) are joining with a lot of potential.

While it is true that everyone expects much of this new England team, I find it quite absurd when I hear some things like "England to clinch the 6N" two weeks before the tournament has started. It reminds me of some misfortunate commentary on the New Zealand Herald... What was it? Something like "France pose absolutely no threat to the All Blacks" or something like that.

I will root for Wales (I always do) and I think that might mean a bit of suffering... But we always do, don't we?

Larkham: do as I say, not as I do

Australian veteran first five eighths Stephen Larkham has called on fellow wallabies players not to join him in leaving Southern Hemisphere rugby for more profitable scenarios.

Larkham, who's starting his first season with the Japanese Ricoh Black Rams, must deem himself at a different level than his former teammates, as he has stated that playing in Australia and playing for your country is very special and senior players like Stirling Mortlock should stay there still for a while.

Players heading towards the Northern Countries is a malady that once every four years happens to strike the Southern Hemisphere. This year a number of All Blacks has left New Zealand to play in Ireland, England or France and so have some australian and south african rugby players. It is something that makes you think about the course that the rugby is taking. But what seems hilarious is one of these players asking for others not to join him.

Is Larkham aware of what he is saying? Why does he rule himself out of his recommendation? How can anyone take him seriously when he behaves so unlike he asks others to do?

Dave Gallaher: Out of History into the legend

It is hard to make a post on Dave Gallaher. In a time when the news (such as the death of sir Edmund Hillary) last a few hours, maybe even a few days, in everyone's memory, who's spending 5 minutes time to think about Dave Gallaher's contribution to rugby?

You may have not noticed but there are thousands of references in the world of rugby to this man's contribution that we don't even pay attention to:

  • Have yo seen this picture? If you are an All Black supporter or if you have ever wanted to get a piece of information on the rugby of the Long White Cloud Land, you may have visited http://www.allblacks.com/ and seen this picture. Among the great legends of the All Blacks, the first on the left, you will find a nineteenth century-born gentleman. He is Dave Gallaher.

  • Take a look closely now the next one. See any sign of Dave Gallaher in it? No? Really? Well, perhaps you might have noticed at the right side of the picture a blue player over the white line with a number 2 on his back. Well, he's the hooker, isn't him? Nothing wrong about it? Perhaps you should know that it was first Dave Gallaher the one who first assigned the task of throwing the ball in the line-out to the hooker (playing himself at hooker in a number of times) and that has remained unchaged for almost one hundred years.
  • Do you know the origin of the name "All Blacks? Do you think it refers to the colour of the shirt wearing a silver fern on it? Well, you are quite right, but not fully right. You might know that the name was first used during 1905 tour of the Home Nations. A New Zealand side (captained by Dave Gallaher, of course) went on to play 35 matches including tests against England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France. They won 34 and lost only to Wales. The team caused an immense expectation from the start. On the newspapers, even the "decadence of the white race" was used as a way to explain the incredible sweeps these men from New Zealand delivered to all the teams in front of them. They went soon to be known as the "All Blacks" but prior to this name, the impressive fashion in which these men played - anyone carrying the ball and being able to play as a back - won them the name of "All Backs". It was Dave Gallaher the first who devised this way of playing for which still nowadays is New Zealand rugby admired even in the bitterest losses.
In 1906, when the incredibly successful team came back home, they were welcome as heroes. Rugby in New Zealand was soon stablished as a national sport and Dave Gallaher's tactics, captaincy and ability had played a key role in it.

On the field, Dave Gallaher played either hooker or wing forward. He was quite tall for a hooker (1,83m was really tall for 1905) and specialiced at wing forward, with a play that raised a lot of controversy during the Originals tour, as the europeans couldn't believe that his play was absolutely legal.

With his natural tactical ability and motivation skills he was clearly candidate to be an outstanding coach and that he did, first for Auckland, and at last for the All Blacks until he volunteered for the World War.

When he was shot in 1917, Dave Gallaher moved out of the History into the Legend.

South African view on new coach's selection

I have taken this pearl from blogs.SARugby.com. Enjoy.

Oval World

Many thanks to Britaniko and the Fenix club de rugby de Zaragoza. My best wishes for them.

All Blacks Around the World (II): France

France is the most visited country in the World. That places Paris in a privileged place amongst the most touristical places of the Earth. (They have a say in Paris: "It is not that Paris might be in France; it is that France actually is in Paris"). Whenever you go, you are likely to find all kinds of people from all over the world but, should you have only one chance to go to Paris, you should definately go there around May or June.

What, worried about missing an All Blacks sweep of the Wallabies at the start of the Tri Nations? Fortunately for you, there is an easy way to follow the All Blacks (and in fact any rugby game) while in Paris if you go to Casey's Bar. Casey's Bar is an Irish Pub, and that means basically massive consumption of Guiness, madness for football and delight at any rugby competition. You ought to take into account, however, that aussies travel as well, and though not so keen to follow their rugby national team (can't blame them), you could find there some Wallabies supporters as well as Springboks supporters... but actually that makes it all more exciting, does not it?

New Zealand Super 14 franchises for 2008 campaign

32 days left and the ball will be in play again with an interesting Blues vs Chiefs at Eden Park.
A great number of players have headed northwards, and quite the same lot of new players are joining the Super 14 for the first time with a lot of new hopes on them. It seems that, as usual, after a World Cup year, it's time for a renovation. Besides, Auckland's Air New Zealand Cup perfect season (they went to win the Cup undefeated) makes us expect anything from the Blues this season.

Here we can take a look to the 2008's squads: I have noted in white the ones that have been capped for New Zealand and in red the new faces of the franchise.

Auckland Blues:
1st row: John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Nick White, Keven Mealamu, Bronson Murray, Tom McCartney, Chris Heard
2nd row: Troy Flavell, Anthony Boric, Bryn Evans, Kurtis Haiu, Chris Smith
3rd row: Daniel Braid, Justin Collins, Jerome Kaino, Onosai'i Tololima-Auva'a, Nick Williams, Chris Lowrey
Half backs: Danny Lee, Taniela Moa, Chris Smylie
Mid-field: Nick Evans, Isa Nacewa, Ben Atiga, Isaia Toeava, Jamie Helleur, Anthony Tuitavake, Benson Stanley, Lachie Munro,
Outside backs:Joe Rocokoco, David Smith, George Pisi, Jarek Goebel, Rudi Wulf

Waikato Chiefs:
1st row:
Ben Castle, Simms Davison, Ben May, Craig West, Aled de Malmanche, Tom Willis
2nd row: Jono Gibbes, Toby Lynn, Kevin O'Neill, Kristian Ormsby
3rd row: Tom Harding, Hayden Hopgood, Sione Lauaki, Tanerau Latimer, Faifili Levave, Liam Messam
Half backs: Brendon Leonard, Jamie Nutbrown
Mid-field: Stephen Donald, Tasesa Lavea, Callum Bruce, Richard Kahui,
Outside backs: Sosene Anesi, Lelia Masaga, Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Dwayne Sweeney, Viliame Waqaseduadua

Canterbury Crusaders:
1st row: Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Campbell Johnstone, Ti'i Paulo, Greg Somerville
2nd row: Corey Flynn, Ross Filipo, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams
3rd row: Richie McCaw, Nasi Manu, Michael Paterson, Kieran Read, Reuben Thorne, Mose Tuiali’i, George Whitelock
Half backs: Andrew Ellis, Kahn Fotuali’i
Mid-field:Tim Bateman, Stephen Brett, Daniel Carter, Hamish Gard, Casey Laulala, Caleb Ralph
Outside backs: Scott Hamilton, Leon MacDonald, Sean Maitland, Kade Poki

Otago Highlanders:
1st row: Jason Macdonald, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh, Clint Newland, Keith Cameron, Chris King
2nd row: Tom Donnelly, Hoani MacDonald, Hayden Triggs, Isaac Ross
3rd row: Craig Newby, Alando Soakai, Steven Setephano, Adam Thomson, Tim Boys, Ezra Taylor
Half back: Jimmy Cowan, Toby Morland
Mid-field: Daniel Bowden, Michael Delany, Aaron Bancroft, Niva Tau’oso, Johnny Leota, Brett Mather
Outside backs: Fetu'u Vainikolo, Lucky Mulipola, Paul Williams, James Wilson

1st row: Andrew Hore, Hikawera Elliot, Jacob Ellison, John Schwalger, Neemia Tialata, Tim Fairbrother
2nd row: Bernie Upton, Craig Clarke, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush
3rd row: Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins, Michael Johnson, Rodney So'oialo, Scott Waldrom,Thomas Waldrom,
Half backs: Alby Mathewson, Piri Weepu
Mid-field: Conrad Smith, Jimmy Gopperth, Ma'a Nonu, Tamati Ellison, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Willie Ripia
Outside backs: Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Shannon Paku, Zac Guildford

The haka

Google statistics, Feedburner, Google Sitemaps have recently revealed that most of the visits to this blog are about a single keyword: "Ka Mate".

That has kept me thinking whether I should change a little bit the subject of the blog and focus a little bit more on the mere haka or on the contrary, keep posting about what I like most: Rugby, New Zealand and the All Blacks.

I think that rugby has more to offer to a blog than the haka, but from these lines I will be happy to pay increasingly more attention to the numerous readers wanting information for the Haka, be it Ka Mate or Kapa O Pango.

I will start with what I consider to be the best info gathered on the haka: http://www.haka.co.nz/.

South Africa may get an edge.

IRB has confirmed that South Africa will be playing within the full-version of the ELV this year on.

To a lesser extent, the ELV are to be introduced this season in the Super 14 starting on Feb 15th, so it is expected a tough work for all to adapt: players, coaches, referees... and spectators as well!

However, as the IRB has stated, the trial period for the ELV will be over in 2009. South Africa gains thus, an edge over the nations who will adopt it later (New Zealand, you ought to wake up).

Intrepidity is the word that comes to my mind when I review the changes that South Africa is introducing after World Cup success. How different is this country behaving than it did!


Today sir Edmund Hillary died.
Goodbye to him.

Lesley Vainikolo: Playing what for whom?

- Hey, pal, heard the new about Vainikolo?
- The tongan league wing who had previously played rugby for Auckland?
- Well, he might kind of been born in Tonga, but he played for the All Golds.
- How come?
- His family lives in New Zealand, he's bound to New Zealand.
- Ah, I see, so what's the new thing about the New Zealand league wing?
- Well, he's not a league player anymore, he's playing for Gloucester Rugby.
- Oh, hah, I see. So he finally changed back to rugby? It's going to be hard work for the Rokocokoes, Sivivatus and Nacewas...
- No, pal, he's been sidelined for the 6 Nations for England.
- So, let's resume... this guy was playing what for whom?
Just let me ask you a question: Which is sillier? a split between league and rugby or the fact that a player can play for different national teams at different sports?

Peter de Villiers: Is he the right choice?

So, finally it has happened. White's successor is a black in a land where rugby used to be whites game. All in all quite tricky, but I cannot imagine a better moment for the SARU to make a pick in the direction that everyone is wishing South Africa's rugby to take: Make rugby reach to black population!!!

Have not South Africa become World Champions? Didn't they all expect this triumph be used in a different manner the one in 1995 was? Then, maybe De Villiers (DV for South Africans) is the right man.

But I don't think it is going to be easy. A bold move has that one been labelled in South Africa; if it were only about seeing who's hot and who can add further value (it never is), De Villiers' task would be far easier. On the contrary, being South Africa's national team Head coach requires him to gather respect from the press, the crowd, the staff... and the players. He starts with that bonus as he is vastly respected but... for how long?

New Zealand host South Africa on July the 5th at Wellington and a week later at Dunedin. Let's wait until then to see how's DV performing.

This week is not about rugby

Auckland is this week full of activity, but nothing to do with the Blues training. In fact, Super 14 pre-season is providing close-to-nothing news and I am waiting for February to bring some excitement (January means mid-winter for us northerns and full-time job).

Meanwhile, Auckland hosts an important tennis tournament over hard court which we spanish people usually love.

Who will win this year? Do you know who will I be supporting?

Choose your haka

  • First performed by the Originals in 1905.
  • Origin of the tradition.
  • Composed by a Maori chief.
  • Known worldwide (better known that the very rules of rugby).
  • 100 years of rugby.
  • First performed by Tana Umaga and co in 2005.
  • Breakthru' in All Blacks history.
  • Composed by the All Blacks for the All Blacks.
  • Throat-slitting contoversy.
  • More aggresive, more sport-oriented.

Which one do you like best?

Danny Cipriani at the 6 Nations?

I am not going to say nothing new about Danny Cipriani. Recently, a glimpse to what the 2008 would bring on Planet-Rugby predicted him to be the most notorious thing to happen in Engand's rugby during this year.

Just three days earlier I watched the London Wasps vs Bath game, featuring him as the real star of the match. Just 30 seconds would have passed before the umpire conceded a penalty to the Wasps on their own field. Danny would take the ball and kick to goal and before I could sit down the score was 3-0. London Wasps never looked back.

From that moment on, he would be scoring from every part of the field, penalties and conversions until the very last moment that he would miss a conversion. Not bad.

He's got what is today needed for a first five eighths: phisically talented, fast and superb kicking skills. And he is just 20.

Why now? Will he be included in the 32 named by England's coach this week to represent England in the 6 nations? Will Jonny Wilkinson be the monster that took his side to triumph last Sunday just by kicking penalties and drop goals or will he start any game on the bench?

(Oh! how much we do miss Super 14 games!!!!!!)

My five cents on Sebastien Chabal

He's been the man of the RWC. Despite France didn't perform as expected, the image of the World Cup has been that of Chabal facins the haka in the quarter-final game against the All Blacks.

A hero in his homeland, his name is worldwide known. I can give you an idea on how popular is Sebastien Chabal:

  1. His videos rank on the tops spots of the most watched ones.
  2. He's got a nickname in NZ (caveman) !! (as if it were easy for anyone who's not played for the All Blacks to get a nick.
  3. He's known in Spain (you can't possibly imagine how much this fact means, given the fact that rugby has never, nor will ever be, anything but a most marginal sport).

But the question I want to address is: Is Sebastien Chabal that good? Is he a world class player or is he a fake? Is he just popular due to his looks?

Clearly, to be the starting number 8 for Sale Sharks one must have something. Here you can have a glimpse:

Sebastien Chabal takes on Masoe

And here you can watch the action that broke Ali Williams jaw:

Caveman on Ali Williams

This is it. It's pure strength. As a third-rower, Chabal is extremely strong. You can take Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe, Sione Lauaki or Lawrence Dallaglio. He'll be among the strongest ones. This gives him an edge at the breakdown or when tackling, but from a rugby point of view, that's all. If you want quickness and hability Rodney So'oialo is far quickest, Richie McCaw is much more technically gifted.

But France lacks a real leader nowadays, a leader like Serge Blanco at the end of the nineties. England has got Wilkinson, South Africa has Matfield or Habana, Australia has had a few of them, etc... but what has France got? How did Les Bleus enter to the World Cup? We can recall Le Monde's interview to a France staff member: "Au niveaux des All Blacks sur le plan physique". France's weapons were laid on physicallity and that left Chabal as their true star.

New Zealand and Brazil: 10 similarities and 10 differences

People are concerned over the future of club rugby in New Zealand after a season that has seen so many All Blacks depart to the U.K. and France. Some have even dared to ask for the rule of not selecting players abroad for the All Black squad to be overlooked. In the scope, the future of New Zealand's rugby.

How is it going to be in the future? Can New Zealand afford a strong club rugby like France and England do? Should New Zealand be another Brazil?

This has been differently approached by two players abroad: Rico Gear and Chris Jack a few weeks ago. The lock asked to prevent what he called a Brazil-like situation.

Is this it? Is New Zealand going to become a new Brazil? From this blog we give 10 similarities and 10 differences between these two giants.

  1. They have each arguably the best national team in history at their respective national sports.
  2. They focus on introducing the game to the kids.
  3. Their clubs cannot match foreign salaries.
  4. They were each far less successful at the first World Cup editions than everyone expected.
  5. Their hardest foe is their closest neighbour.
  6. Each of the two have a characteristic "jogo bonito" way of playing.
  7. They have only been world champions when they have had the best defense.
  8. The game has been adopted by the native population and has mixed with the country cultural inheritance.
  9. Both nations stop when the national team is playing
  10. National's team head coach is both the most desired position and hated person in the country.


  1. Brazil has nearly got 200 million people and 60 million football players. That makes Brazil on of the most populated countries and the one with more football players. On the other hand, there are "only" 4 million New Zealanders and just 140,000 of them are rugby players.
  2. The GDP per capita is less than 7,000 US$ in Brazil while it is almost 30,000 US$ in New Zealand.
  3. Brazilian streets are full of kids dreaming that playing good football will fill their families with wealth, whereas in New Zealand, there are no kids on the streets (nor wealth in rugby).
  4. Brazilian club competition is of no interest while Super 14 is one of the top club competitions worldwide.
  5. Brazilian clubs hope to sell players to Europe to pay debts whereas Super 14 franchises would love to retain them.
  6. Brazil has won 5 World Cups although lost one on home soil. New Zealand has only won once but played on home soil.
  7. Brazil usually plays awfully during qualifying tournaments and wins every four years, while the All Blacks have been labelled "champions between World Cups".
  8. New Zealanders are too oft seen as "arrogant" by others while no one says so about Brazilians and simply see them as "the best".
  9. In Brazil there is simply no other sport, while New Zealanders love (besides rugby) league, cricket, football...
  10. In Brazil, Graham Henry would have been sacked on October the 8th.

Super 14: 44 days left

February, 15th. 06:35 GMT.

The ball will be kicked and a new Super 14 season will start off. Robbie Deans Crusaders will face the Brumbies at Christchurch. A lot to demonstrate on the Kiwi side (Does Robbie Deans coaching of the Crusaders allow the usage of half-kiwi and half-aussie for the Crusaders?) both for their coach and for some golden stars on the field.

South African Sharks call for a little bit of victimism as some of their key players were used in the late-year Springboks tour and/or have left for the Northern Hemisphere.

RugbyHeaven warns us to pay attention to the Hurrricanes and Auckland's impressive win in the Air New Zealand Cup together with star appointment of Nick Evans are a matter of joy for Blues supporters.

What do Matfield's Bulls think of all this?