By The Spotter
It’s just a matter of hours away and quite honestly, I can’t wait.The grudge match, at least in the eyes of the media, is almost upon us. It is of course the Hurricanes and the Chiefs and thanks in part to my editor on this site helping ramp up the discord among supporters in the two camps with his objections to ‘Scrumgate’ and the faux tighthead prop fiasco a few months back at the Cake Tin, it should be an absolute humdinger.
The matchups across the park shape like a Probables versus Possibles for the first XV of the ABs. Naturally there is the tantalising prospect of the battle of the opensides, Cane vs Savea, but the one that whets the appetite the most is Cruden up against Barrett. And I have it on pretty reliable authority that unless Barrett significantly outpoints his opposite, his team go on to the Final and then win that too with Barrett again prominent, Cruden will get the nod for the starting pozzie in the All Blacks’ opener in the Rugby Championship.
That makes sense because Steve Hansen has long been a Cruden disciple, with even the one and only DC struggling in the past to recapture the starting spot off the Chiefs pivot after returning from injury a couple of times. Both Cruden and Barrett are genial and have of course well-honed kicking games, with Barrett recently showing a lot of development in his longer punting ability, and with pinpoint accuracy very often also. Cruden however probably has the stronger skill set in the passing department and uses better sleight of hand. He also appears to run onto the ball a bit more forcefully and so hits the line with a bit more grunt more often than Barrett.
Defensively they both can cope well even when targeted a bit around the ruck. Goalkicking may well make the difference in the semi; just another aspect to measure. Their duel will be absolutely fascinating.
A bit of how’s your father may also be in prospect in the Forwards’ battle. Vaea Fifita looks a reasonably fired-up individual and if he gets under the skin of someone like Brodie Retallick we could well see a yellow card or two.
And finally, one cannot finish without mentioning ‘The Curse of the Devlino’ (as opposed to Bambino). Or to put it another way, ‘The Curse of the Scary Javelin’. You just know who…
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