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Aisle be back: The end of the round-robin and the game before the game

Jubilee Cup Premier | 12 July 2018 | Kevin McCarthy

Aisle be back: The end of the round-robin and the game before the game

Above: Ngani Laumape returns to the midfield for Friday's game against the Chief after scoring four tries against the Blues. 

It's a great little game to play ahead of the real game.

Of course it’s the question of how seriously to take this weekend’s final round-robin match, given that the Canes and Chiefs will face each other in the first quarter-final.

The only thing in doubt is who will be hosting. If the Canes lose by a BP and 23 points margin, then it will be the Chiefs, otherwise, it’s yellow and black time at the Cake Tin.

The Chiefs are already benching two stars, Damian McKenzie and Sam Cane, for differing reasons, and coach Colin Cooper doesn’t sound like he has much faith in them pulling off the big win and wresting home advantage.

As I had hoped, the Canes however are not getting clever and resting key players.

There are just three changes to the team that will run on to Waikato Stadium from the one which faced the Blues last round.

Prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen is promoted from the bench along with lock Michael Fatialofa in changes to the pack while competition leading try scorer Ben Lam also returns.

Lam is the only change to a back line, which includes second five-eighth Ngani Laumape who will again form a midfield combination with Wes Goosen.


There are a few tweaks to the bench where Chris Eves, Reed Prinsep and Finlay Christie all return after a week away.

As a team that has managed to arrest a three game horror slump, the Hurricanes really need to keep the pedal to the metal.

So I think it’s wrong to treat this weekend’s game as a dead rubber.

Firstly, stranger things have happened. The Chiefs could rip against a half motivated team.

And secondly, whatever side fronts in the quarterfinal, they need to go into that thinking we’ve got the number of these guys. Go for a win, and take it deadly seriously.

Generally, the Chiefs have not found the Cake Tin a happy hunting ground, let’s ensure they get the same warm welcome.

But the most pressing reason is that the Canes need to get back in the groove. Saturday was a start, and thanks to a much better backline structure, and a generous Blues midfield, they at least made a start.

Basically the team is on borrowed time. If they win the quarterfinal, then it’s almost certainly onto Christchurch.

The Canes haven’t looked like a side that is going to topple the Crusaders. But they need to get some sort of swagger going by then if they are to have any slim hope. On a good day, well, wouldn’t that be a nice way to prolong the season.

So it’s two more key games – not one. Get back the mojo, and work on the defence, and above all, get that pack humming.


This is a rugby column but wouldn’t it have been wonderful to see England get the mother of all monkeys off their back by reaching the World Cup final.

If we thought the curse of ‘87 was bad – and it was – just think how torturous 1966 has become - and continues on after this morning's loss to Croatia.

Here in Vanuatu the flag of Brazil has been the favourite but all that has gone now. There have been the Crosses of St George ever more in display on vehicles.

My favourite was a wee white taxi where the owner has used a few applications of red duct tape to turn it into a mobile English battle flag.

It would have been good if their party kept rolling. 

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

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