Strange nights where I am right now, in Vanuatu. Punctuated by spectacular flashes that at first look like lightning, but which we work out are reflected flashes from an exploding volcano on Ambae island, 70 kilometres away.
As Men At Work once asked, Can’t you hear, Can’t you hear the Thunder? No, no, you can’t – which is even weirder.
So what’s that got to do with Super Rugby? Well, the Hurricanes play the Rebels this Friday.
It’s now round 6 (or 7) and yet this is the first cross-over match between a NZ and Aussie outfit.
The Rebels have been lighting up the Australian conference, which is something I never thought I’d write. But is there any boom to the light show.
It certainly seems either by design or otherwise, the Australian teams are being shielded from playing NZ teams until a decent way into the comp.
It’s actually very sensible. By this time last year, albeit in an 18-team comp, the Aussies had played Kiwi sides seven times already. You all know how badly that went, and how it never got any better.
This time, even the Reds are feeling good. I don’t know if the fans over there are feeling any more chipper, but anything that doesn’t involve rearranging your underpants to conceal cheating has got to feel good by comparison.
Now the riddle for the Hurricanes is what really are these 2018 Rebels made of? Probably fair to say they are a better lot than the 2017 crowd, given that the Force talent pool had to go somewhere.
We still assume that any New Zealand footie team, even the Blues, should have the edge, but we will find out on Friday.
Probably the Rebels would have preferred the Blues, but they’ve got a Hurricanes team that if it doesn’t button off and get complacent, should still be too hot to handle.
Incidentally, there are not suddenly a rush of crossover games for the Aussies in the following rounds. Expect the Men Down Under to be doing more glowing than chundering for the next few weeks.
In the second half of the Highlanders, when it was a close scrap, the heartening thing to contemplate was our bench.
They didn’t necessarily get us home, but the calibre of the guys there is reassuring. It certainly outgunned the Highlanders. Vince Aso was on the bench last week – this week he starts, so good to see the lethal combo with Laumape back in play.
As always though, it’s how the pack shapes up that should be the focus, and right now there’s plenty to feel good about there.
The news that Michael Fatialofa is leaving the Canes for an English club just shows that careers in New Zealand terms are becoming very short at the top level.
It still feels like he’s barely emerged as a top-flight player. Then, pow, there you go after three years (admittedly one badly affected by injury), he’s off.
The game here still seems able to cope with the churn but you’ve got to be worried that it’s accelerating in both numbers and speed.
I guess we’re all enjoying the Aussies suffering for their sins in cricket. Thank God we’ve never had that afflicted on our national obsession.
But of course, we did. A certain rugby test in Cardiff, at a certain lineout. Covered over by the ref spotting a misdemeanor at the same time.
This was not a regulation case of the “playing close to the law” euphemism. It was an act of intent against the spirit of the game.
I can’t recall much national self-flagellation after that. But that was a long, long time ago and we’re a lot more grown up these days.
Hurricanes v Rebels, kick-off 9.45pm Friday night.
Kevin is a lifetime Hurricanes fan. He and his partner are on a two-year Volunteer Service Abroad posting to Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo island. He's working on a project to build a South Pacific World War 2 museum on the site of an enormous Allied base on the island. Check it out at www.southpacificwwiimuseum.com