Five Talking Points from Week Two

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Time on the road a big help

 

No matter how it was spun the late change in coach for the Hurricanes as a result of John Plumtree's elevation to the All Blacks panel was always going to be more difficult than many would have had you believe. That was clear in the way the side were held scoreless in their first game, against the Stormers in South Africa. But whatever was behind that effort, there was no doubt in Buenos Aires on Sunday (NZT) that the side had gone a long way towards turning things around with a stunning last 10 minutes to seal the 26-23 win. They did that while still making more mistakes than coach Jason Holland wanted but he couldn't have asked for more in a show of old-fashioned 'ticker' from his side and that has to be a big lift for the franchise overall. Being away from home is often the best thing for sides looking to sort things out and early signs are that the Hurricanes have achieved that ahead of an important home game against the rampant Sharks in Wellington on Saturday.

 

Making hay while sun shines

 

Is it the Warren Gatland or the Aaron Cruden factor? Both men have brought starch to a Chiefs team that finds itself on top of the New Zealand Conference after two rounds. Gatland well knows the foibles of man management having knitted together a consistent Wales team over the last decade and a bit, and has clearly lifted the self-belief in a side that has always had the potential but which suffered from a shocking list of injuries to key players through the years. It shouldn't be forgotten they were two All Blacks props down when they beat the Crusaders on Saturday. Cruden has offered experience and direction at first five-eighths, clearly evident in their recovery to beat the Blues and amplified against the Crusaders. What may be more important in the longer term is the example he sets for future five-eighths in the region as his contract is only for the one season. Whatever the outcome the Chiefs look like taking full advantage of their good fortune, and recruitment, this year.

Investment paying off

 

It's always been acknowledged that a key component in success has been having a quality first five-eighths and the Brumbies look to have nurtured someone capable of playing a big part in their future. Noah Lolesio, 20, a cousin of former All Black Francis Saili, and an Australian Under-20 vice-captain was recruited straight out of his Gold Coast high school in 2018 to join a group of young players the Brumbies wanted to prepare. He produced another fine performance in the side's 39-26 win over the Rebels to demonstrate his value. Clever play saw him play a key role in two of the Brumbies' tries while he also put over a dropped goal to stem the Rebels bid at a late comeback. Little wonder coach Dan McKellar was singing his praises and backing his coolness. "It's a real strength of his. He's such a composed kid, doesn't worry about mistakes or let pressure rattle him. If you've got that as a 10 it's a strong trait to have. He's a whole lot of natural skill to go with it as well but between the ears he's got a lot of quality."

 

Be careful what you wish for

 

Here's a new one. New Stormers coach John Dobson was so determined in his quest to be the best performing side in the African Conference that he decided not to cite any Hurricanes players after their feisty opening game in week one. The Hurricanes rightly refuted Stormers' claims when saying the feistiness wasn't all one-way traffic. Reports from South Africa said that Dobson's reason for not citing was because he wanted the Hurricanes to beat the defending Conference champions, the Jaguares, in order to improve the Stormers' chances. Having yet to concede a point in the competition, Dobson's side travel to Johannesburg to play the Lions at the weekend before returning home to host the Jaguares.

 

Tactical compromise

 

Are the Bulls en route to being the easy beats of Super Rugby 2020? In two rounds, Pote Human's side have failed to score a try and that's what Super Rugby is supposed to be about isn't it? At least they have a week off to ponder what's going wrong as they have the bye in week three before they prepare for their first home game, against the Blues. What makes their situation more concerning is that they finished last season as the best of the South African sides. Is there a coincidence in their predicament with the choice of playing first five-eighths Morne Steyn? He kicked their only points in week one against the Sharks and was then denied any opportunities to kick for goal as the Stormers pinned them in their own half for two-thirds of the game. This from a team which won plaudits for adopting a more attacking style in 2018-19.

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