Hail, thunder and a war of words: Five Super Rugby talking points

Sunwolves' Koo Ji-woo is tackled by Crusaders' Ethan Blackadder as a massive hailstorm rages in Christchurch

Wellington (AFP) – A ferocious storm caused problems on and off the field in Christchurch while Australian sides suffered a blowout this weekend.

Here are five talking points from week 10 of Super Rugby.

– Crusaders withstand the Sun-storm –

The winless Sunwolves succumbed to their eighth loss, but for a time they had a whiff of causing arguably the biggest upset in Super Rugby history against the Canterbury Crusaders in Christchurch.

“They could have taken a pretty big scalp at one stage,” agreed Crusaders coach Scott Robertson after his defending champions escaped with a bonus-point 33-11 victory.

The Sunwolves were down 14-0 after eight minutes, but when rain and hail lashed the ground in a ferocious storm, they kept the Crusaders scoreless for more than 45 minutes while narrowing the gap to 14-11.

It had Robertson on the edge of his seat, watching his side being hassled into an uncharacteristic error-strewn performance.

“I was just trying to clear my mind as to what messages we can get down there,” the coach said. “How can we just hold the ball and build some momentum? Because the defence of the Sunwolves was putting a lot of pressure on us.”

In the Sunwolves box, coach Jamie Joseph dared to dream until a lapse of concentration turned the game.

“At 14-11 what actually happened is they kicked off, we knocked on, they scrummed and they scored,” he said. “These are the sorts of things that really piss you off as a coach.”

It was the first of three late tries to save the day for the Crusaders, and a relieved Robertson claimed: “I had faith right to the last whistle.”

– Hail leaves stadium exposed –

One thing Robertson does not have faith in is the ability of authorities in Christchurch to deliver the city a new stadium, seven years after a deadly earthquake wrecked the old one.

The Crusaders are still playing in a temporary 18,000-seater stadium and its shortcomings were exposed on Saturday when fans had to endure thunder, lightning, torrential rain and hail during the Sunwolves match.

Robertson said supporters of the reigning Super Rugby champions in the South Island’s largest city deserved better than a makeshift facility.

“I am hugely grateful for our people turning up, year after year, to a stadium which is temporary,” he said.

“We just want our leaders to be really brave and make a decision that is going to create a future for ourselves and our whole community to be really proud of.”

Robertson knows exactly what he wants, something like Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin, where the roof provides comfort for spectators and allows players to show off their silky skills.

“It has got to be someone that shows true leadership, like they did in Dunedin,” he said.

– Aussies endure weekend from hell – 

It’s been dubbed Australian rugby’s weekend from hell with all four Super Rugby outfits losing to overseas teams.

The New South Wales Waratahs began the slide with their first pointless display against South Africa’s Golden Lions in Sydney, followed by the Queensland Reds conceding a 35th straight game against Kiwi teams in losing to the Waikato Chiefs and the Melbourne Rebels maintaining their winless record in South Africa by going down to the Northern Bulls.

The ACT Brumbies rounded off a dreadful weekend for Aussie hopes by crashing to a 25-20 defeat against Argentina’s Jaguares in Canberra on Sunday.

“The four defeats in four games by Aussie teams in an utterly forgettable round 10 derails what collective progress has been made this season,” bemoaned the Daily Telegraph.

– Mitchell rips into Rebels –

Rival coaches John Mitchell of Northern Bulls and Dave Wessels of Melbourne Rebels were involved in a war of words after the South African side triumphed 28-10 in Pretoria.  

Former New Zealand All Blacks coach Mitchell was upset at the negative tactics of South Africa-born Wessels and his team, saying they tarnished the image of the competition.

“I’m not sure the organisers needs a product like that,” said Mitchell. “The match lasted 100 minutes because of constant stoppages. Our opponents were totally negative.”

Wessels defended his tactics. “Our job is not to come and entertain the Pretoria crowd — our job is to win for the people of Melbourne,” he said.

– Jaguares on a roll heading to NZ – 

The Jaguares head to New Zealand this week upbeat after back-to-back wins in Australia for the second time in two seasons.

The Argentines were too cagey and experienced for the bumbling Brumbies winning on their first trip to Canberra and coming on top of their fighting 25-22 win over the Rebels the previous week when they overcame airport delays, missed international flight connections and a broken down bus to the stadium to win in Melbourne.

The Jaguares are making a habit of winning in Australia after vanquishing the Waratahs and Rebels on last year’s tour down under and now they are looking for further wins against the struggling Auckland Blues and Waikato Chiefs in their final two tour games in New Zealand.

“We wanted to win our first two games in Australia and we did it and it’s a great start to the tour,” said Jaguares skipper Pablo Matera, his arm in a sling after the Brumbies triumph.

Winger Ramiro Moyano won’t be available for the Blues match after suffering a blow to the head and carried from the field late in the Brumbies game.