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Debut deferred for ‘excited’ Blues new boy Barrett



Debut deferred for ‘excited’ Blues new boy Barrett | SuperSport

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Super Rugby

Small things will matter in the final



Small things matter in big games, and that is what Highlanders first five-eighths Mitch Hunt said the southerners would be looking to achieve in Saturday’s Sky Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final against the Blues in Auckland.

Those ‘small things’ involved conceding the fewest penalties, making the least errors, and being the tidiest around their game plan, he said.


“It’s just us focusing on us. We know what they’re going to bring which is stock standard,” he said.


Hunt said having played in finals before helped him calm his nerves and to settle into his role in games. Playing the final was a reward for two seasons of hard work during which he has played all but about 40 minutes of the Highlanders’ games.


“I can imagine it is going to be a pretty incredible atmosphere, loud, a ton of blue flags and the works there, so it is going to be exciting, there will be some nerves, and it is going to be a mixed bag.


“What is cool about this group is the growth. From the start of this year to where we are now there has been a great deal of growth.


“We’ve found a little bit of our identity now. I think that is why we are here in this final. The guys have worked really hard for each other, they’ve trusted each other and the coaches, and the game plan and what we’re about,” he said.

They deserved their place in the final, and while they had a nervous wait after playing the first game of the last round, their bonus point had proved enough to qualify.


“We had a clear goal around the bonus point in Canberra. That was our sole focus. Unfortunately for us, the results were in other team’s hands. Our job was the bonus point, and we gave ourselves that chance, and actually won really well,” he said.


“I don’t think any team realised how crucial those bonus points and the pluses and minuses [were] going to be in those first few weeks. It does force teams to play more footy and try and get those tries and the bonus point.


“But none of that matters now coming into this weekend, it is just going to be who can build pressure and, ultimately, in the end, the scoreboard is the thing that matters, rather than tries and bonus points.


“It will be our third time playing them this year and it is one-all. We know what they bring around their physicality. They’ve got a great group of guys – a lot of All Blacks in the group. It is going to be tough,” he said.


“If we can focus on ourselves, really nail the detail within our game plan I think that will take care of itself. I think the whole atmosphere of a final should bring the energy, should bring intensity,” he said.

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South Africa Super Rugby sides can play for European title



DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 14: Ernst van Rhyn of the DHL Stormers during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers at Jonsson Kings Park on March 14, 2020 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 14: Ernst van Rhyn of the DHL Stormers during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers at Jonsson Kings Park on March 14, 2020 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South Africa’s Super Rugby sides will be eligible to play in the European Champions Cup from next year.

The Sharks, Stormers, Lions, and Bulls have replaced the Cheetahs and Southern Kings in an upgraded and expanded Pro14 renamed as the United Rugby Championship starting in September.

The plan announced on Tuesday is for the South African sides to be allowed to play for the European club title from 2022-23, subject to contract terms being finalized with European organizers.

They join Pro14 sides Cardiff, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons from Wales; Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht from Ireland; Edinburgh and Glasgow of Scotland; and Bennetton and Zebre of Italy.

“South African rugby has for many years imagined a future aligned with northern hemisphere rugby, and this announcement marks the arrival of that vision,” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said.

“Our teams will be pitting themselves against the leading clubs from four nations, steeped in rugby tradition and folklore. They will do it without having to cross time zones or acclimatize, while 100% of matches will kick off in South African prime time.

The cross-hemisphere competition comprises of four regional pools — South Africa, Wales, Ireland, and a combined Scotland and Italy — with the four teams in each playing home and away, plus one fixture against each of the other 12 sides. The top eight enter a straight knockout phase culminating in a final.

The pool winners will earn a Champions Cup place for the following season, and the remaining four allocated Champions Cup spots will go to the four highest-placed league teams that have not already qualified through their regional pools.

URC chief executive Martin Anayi claimed the new league will “begin to reshape the world of club rugby.”

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The Blues and Highlanders stars who could become All Blacks bolters after this weekend’s final



Much of this week’s media attention has been focused towards the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final, but there is an underlying narrative surrounding next Monday’s All Blacks squad announcement.

While three of New Zealand’s five Super Rugby sides won’t be able to show off their talent for the rest of the year, this Saturday presents the last chance for All Blacks hopefuls from the Blues and Highlanders to push their case for inclusion in Ian Foster’s side.

Perform well on Super Rugby’s grandest stage at Eden Park this weekend, and fringe All Blacks players could well hear their names read aloud when Foster’s first squad of 2021 is announced two days after the final.

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Who takes out Super Rugby Trans-Tasman? | Aotearoa Rugby Pod | RugbyPass

Which players Foster has or hasn’t pencilled in remains unclear, but there are a number of players competing in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final who could lock themselves into the squad with a starring performance in three days’ time.

According to former All Blacks hooker James Parsons, Blues lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti is among those who could come into consideration if he shines in what is thought to be his final appearance for the franchise this weekend.

“One guy that’s maybe out there but potentially could be on the radar if there’s an injury is Gerard Cowley-Tuioti,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“I just think he’s really good with ball in hand and he’s really good defensively. He’s got that, but he’s a student of the game. His preparation, he runs the Blues’ defence and attack, lineouts with Patty [Patrick Tuipulotu], so he knows that side of his game.

“He’s really bone-deep in his prep, which I really like, and that’s what you need at that next standard. He’s had a great season. His game is just the best I’ve ever seen it. I don’t want to lose him for Harbour, but could potentially do so.”

Ex-Highlanders lock Joe Wheeler agreed with Parons’ comments as he expressed disbelief over Cowley-Tuioti’s omission from the North Island squad for last year’s North vs South clash.

“I was a huge fan of his last year and I think he’s put in two consecutive, consistent seasons,” Wheeler told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“The interesting thing for me was he was probably one of our form locks last season in Super Rugby Aotearoa but missed, somehow, the North Island selection, which I still can’t understand how he missed out on that selection.

“He was probably one of the best locks in the country at that stage, so that was interesting for me. I took that as where they stand that he’s a little bit too old for that next World Cup cycle.

“If guys are good enough now and they’re playing at that highest tier and at a world-class level, then you should pick them, regardless of position, regardless of whether you see them being able to make the next World Cup.

“I think that might be counting against him, but I’ve loved his presence in that Blues side, now running lineouts with Patty and doing a fantastic job, and obviously what you alluded to with their defence, their defensive lineout being the best in the competition this year.”

Parsons also highlighted Blues stars such as Alex Hodgman, Akira Ioane and Tom Robinson as other prospects who could break their way into the All Blacks.

The ex-Blues captain added that key Highlanders players Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane and Mitch Hunt may also be in the running as potential backup options should they impress in the final.

Wheeler made particular note of Nareki, who has caught the eye this year with an array of electric performances on the wing for the Highlanders.

“I know traditionally the All Blacks have gone for that big, bruising that always wins gainline, but the thing I love about Jona Nareki is he’s got the complete skill set,” Wheeler said.

“For a winger, obviously not the biggest guy, but he plays big. He had that uncanny ability to always beat the first defender. He’s got a great left foot, he turns up in areas a lot of other left wingers wouldn’t turn up in as second receiver.

“He has the ability to throw the wide ball, he has a huge work rate, and I’d just about say he’s one of the best defensive wings in New Zealand at the moment.

“He has a great ability to shut down time and space to paint a picture that he’s got everything covered, but then also pull back when he doesn’t to sell two different pictures. If teams think they can skip pass him, he has an uncanny ability of taking those intercepts.

“I think he’s a guy, even though he’s small in stature, the way he plays, he plays so big and he’s so important to what this Highlanders team does.”

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:


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