Anendra Singh: Plenty to ask coaches about

By Anendra Singh

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What on earth is happening in the boiler room of the Hawke's Bay Magpies?

Okay so bullocking winger Maritino Nemani has bleached his hair but what else is different?

We are one game away from finishing the ITM Cup premiership campaign and the coaches still seem to be tinkering with the starting lineup.

I don't know about you but try picking a starting XV from one week to another and see how successful you are with finding a modicum of consistency with what's on the mind of Craig Philpott and Danny Lee.

Here are some blatant questions that beg asking even if we were going to win last night's game at McLean Park, Napier, against Canterbury and let's not go to what state of befuddlement the players must find themselves in to secure a niche in the team.

How do players from Super Rugby franchises, including the title-winning Chiefs, fade into obscurity within the space of a few months?

Hika Elliot (Tamatea Rugby Club), Ben Tameifuna (Hastings Rugby and Sports), Andrew Horrell (Taradale Rugby Club) and Maritino Nemani (Hastings) are Chiefs players.

Karl Lowe (Clive Rugby Club) and Chris Eaton (Taradale) hail from the Hurricanes franchise while Zac Guildford (Napier Technical Old Boys) and Israel Dagg (Napier Pirates) are from the Crusaders.

That's a fair whack of talent pool to massage and mould into a competitive unit, let alone a winning one, never mind how you look at it, even when considering ABs fullback Dagg hasn't laced up his boots for the Magpies at all this winter in the premiership.

Now no one is saying we shouldn't all sing from the same song sheet of Come on the Bay to get behind the lads and the coaching stable as the noose tightens around the neck and the lower-tier cup championship beckons for next season.

What has gone so horribly wrong with a team that were thrice in the semifinals?

Several rugby stalwarts I've spoken to believe the Magpies have slid back so far this season that it'll take something special to yank them out of a mind swamp.

Elliot failing to make the starting XV for the opening match here against Auckland on August 23 perhaps set the tone for things to come in the season.

"Me, Ben, Tino and Andrew have just come back from a high with the Chiefs so it's vital we carry that momentum into the competition and get stuck in to lead from the front," is what the 26-year-old hooker told me during the customary but open captain's run at the Hastings Boys' High School grounds.

All right, swollen egos can be an issue - and I'm not for a second suggesting Elliot or any other Chiefs players are suffering from that condition - but just maybe they deserved to have someone stroke them the right way to bring out their best.

We are talking about some players who are on the cusp of playing for the All Blacks. In Elliot's case a recall after he and Tameifuna were in the greater AB squad soon after the Super Rugby campaign.

Instead, in the Ranfurly Shield challenge against holders Taranaki on September 7, Elliot was substituted while the Magpies trailed 8-6.

I understand giving him limited time last night - if that is the coaching mindset - to keep him fresh for another challenge against Waikato this Saturday in Hamilton.

What's happened to Tameifuna?

Okay so he wants to be where the "Jonah Lomus and the Buck Shelfords" were but what's wrong with dreaming?

Yanked out of the tighthead position and propped up on the loosehead side the experiment failed and he eventually disappeared from the radar.

Here's another change that barks like a rabid dog.

Nemani returned from an injury break after the away loss to Southland on September 16, the Fijian winger has become a centre.

He certainly doesn't look comfortable there and a rash of mistakes is a testimony to that.

Eaton, who had a decent Super season, has almost faded into obscurity.

Like Guildford, the halfback didn't last very long on the paddock in the 20-7 loss to Manawatu last Saturday.

Is the body language garbled or is it just me?

Horrell is only a shadow of the man who scored a 2011 season record 152 points and he has played his share of musical chairs.

The Magpies pack lack mongrel and Elliot brings that but what we would do for a Sona Taumalolo or Clint Newland to back him up.

In many ways, the Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union must feel like the New Zealand Warriors after letting go of coach Ivan Cleary for Brian McLennan.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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