Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Dicey Blues make you want to scream

Stephen Brett sent his kickoff over the dead ball line. Photo / Northern Advocate
Stephen Brett sent his kickoff over the dead ball line. Photo / Northern Advocate

Eden Park was an illusion. The Shark Tank was reality.

The Blues we know all too well, sadly, re-emerged in a horrible performance in South Africa, mustering just one half chance in the try-scoring department.

There is no disgrace in losing in South Africa.

But the manner of this defeat was downright distressing. The Sharks have a forward pack that needs to be respected, but their back division is hardly anything to get excited about.

Surely, after the euphoria of the opening round win over the Crusaders, they had something more inspiring to offer than that.

The Blues are loaded with explosive power but they didn't even get close to lighting a wick.

Instead, they diced with disaster in their own half, in tricky handling conditions, with moves of diminishing returns with each pass.

After the Blues conceded early points, Stephen Brett handed the crowd another tasty boerewors by slamming his kickoff over the dead ball line. You felt like screaming.

Anyone who has followed this mob since the end of the good old days sensed the first round comeback victory was another cruel trick of false hope offered to their supporters.

That opening match at Eden Park was a thriller but you knew the misery would return.

When will this nightmare end? Auckland should be crawling with world-class rugby prospects. And performances.

My only specific observations would include that openside Daniel Braid is too small - or maybe there is no petrol left in the tank - for the current style of rugby. Then again, maybe Braid is just confused as to what he's supposed to be doing out there.

The large, sharp-footed Isaia Toeava stood out - if he can flourish in this wobbly environment then the All Blacks may indeed have something special on their hands. No doubt he'll be shunted all over the Blues backline though.

Picking out individuals is to scrape at the tip of an iceberg-sized problem.

Boom and bust, bust, bust. That's the Blues' cycle because they chop and change all the time.

You can see the usual selection changes coming - Luke McAlister for Brett and so on and so forth - as the Blues keep rolling the dice.

Pat Lam will toy with those two first five-eighths and then we'll wake up to find they've both left town to be replaced by who knows who next season.

I'm picking the Warriors will carry the hopes of Auckland football fans this year.

What fun it is to tempt fate, but the league lads look in decent shape with a solid core, a couple of excellent recruits and confident and exciting prospects coming through their development system.

One concern is in the prop department. Injuries to Sam Rapira and/or Russell Packer would leave the Warriors relying on converted second-rowers.

* Will Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams remain at the Crusaders after this year's World Cup? You would hope so.

Symbolism and unity will be so important for that battered city.

That is not to put undue pressure on the footy stars, which would be unfair. And no one would criticise them should they go.

They have lives to live, short careers and endless opportunities of their making.

But there are times in famous people's lives when they can make a massive difference, when important sacrifices can be made.

McCaw was almost certain to stay anyway and there is no way in the world he will leave under these circumstances. You just know that.

Working out what Carter and Williams might do is like trying to read tea leaves in a tornado.

Carter is apparently a part-time Auckland resident now. If he was going to leave the red and blacks for glories overseas, the earthquake tragedy has added a new element to his decision.

Williams' situation is different in terms of history and loyalty and his rugby credentials aren't proven.

But he has a magical hold on public appeal.

Trusted advisers need to tell the players what they mean to the region, so they can at least factor that into their decisions.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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