The Wellington Hurricanes moved to the top of the Super Rugby standings with 25-13 win over the Waikato Chiefs.
But it was a bruising encounter that left Chiefs coach Colin Cooper questioning the need for so many derbies, which occupy around half the regular-season fixtures.
Here are five talking points from week nine of Super Rugby:
– Chiefs don’t rate ‘mate on mate’ –
They may be crowd favourites, and please the sponsors, but the intense brutality of derbies does not impress Chiefs coach Colin Cooper who called on SANZAAR to limit the carnage they produce.
“I think both camps have got stitches and bruised bodies around the place,” Cooper said after Chiefs prop Aidan Ross was taken from the field with a broken ankle during their 25-13 loss to the Hurricanes.
“I don’t know whether we need to be smashing each other like we are, and I think the people above need to probably have a look what’s happening.
“I think it’s just the attrition of playing each other twice. Playing once is enough.”
The Chiefs’ injury toll has been so high that in their first seven games, which included five derbies, that they’ve fielded seven players who weren’t in their original squad.
– Highlanders wing to victory –
The Otago Highlanders took a step back in time as they worked out how to overcome the ACT Brumbies and extend New Zealand’s two-year domination over Australian sides to 34 games.
They reinvented the “wing forward” — a quaint term once used to describe the modern-day flanker — although in the Highlanders case they used an actual wing.
Twice they put a wing on the side of the scrum which allowed them to place a loose forward in the backs to good effect as they scored four late tries on their way to a 43-17 victory, one coming when they were reduced to 14 men.
“We asked for better management around our territory game and I thought we got that,” coach Aaron Mauger said.
– All means nothing for Rebels –
Melbourne Rebels were knocked off the top of the Australian Conference for the first time this season and now face two tough away games in South Africa, where they have never won, without scrum-half Will Genia.
Scans have revealed Genia suffered a grade one hamstring strain in the three-point defeat to Argentina’s Jaguares after blowing a 19-6 lead to lose 25-22 in Melbourne.
The Rebels had a chance to salvage a draw by kicking a penalty close to the posts with time up, but skipper Adam Coleman instead opted for a scrum which failed to force the match-winning try.
“We’re not here for a draw,” Coleman said after the Rebels suffered their third loss in four games.
“All or nothing. It’s all I am as a player and I backed the boys 100 percent and I’ll continue to do that throughout the season.”
– Gelant effort embarrasses Sharks –
Warrick Gelant was the hat-trick hero when Northern Bulls shocked hosts Coastal Sharks 40-10, winning high praise from astute pundit and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett.
“I have not seen a better performance from a South African full-back in Super Rugby this season,” Mallett, now a TV analyst, said after Gelant scored after five and eight minutes and again just before full-time.
While plaudits went Gelant’s way, Sharks coach Robert du Preez called his team an “absolute embarrassment” with the way they folded in the Durban downpour.
The Sharks started as hot favourites on their return from New Zealand, where they scored 63 points when beating the Blues and lost a thriller against the Hurricanes by a single point.
– Dark clouds over Sunwolves –
Sunwolves coach Jamie Joseph felt let down after his Japanese unit crashed in the second half against the Auckland Blues to turn a 10-5 half-time lead into a 24-10 defeat.
Joseph was hoping for a repeat of last year’s titanic effort when the Sunwolves toppled the Blues 48-21.
“We handed the game back to the Blues and that’s the disappointing thing,” Joseph said, warning that “players need to take responsibility and make tackles and if they can’t then they will be replaced.”
It left the Sunwolves winless after seven matches and a tough fortnight ahead as they go on the road to play top New Zealand sides the Canterbury Crusaders and Hurricanes.
© Agence France-Presse