Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby: Blues' Weepu effect

Piri Weepu. Photo / Dean Purcell
Piri Weepu. Photo / Dean Purcell

Cult figures often become so because they are unaware or at least unassuming about their public status. Piri Weepu seems to fit into that camp.

He is a sportsman with a common touch who would be like the average bloke were it not for the fact he played a crucial role helping the All Blacks regain the World Cup, particularly with a man-of-the match performance in the quarter-final against Argentina. He likes a good feed, enjoys playing the larrikin and speaks his mind with disarming honesty.

Those traits have earned him national respect and, in the modern day measurement of such matters, 40,501 twitter followers (at last count). In addition, the Wainuiomata rugby club have named their Piri Weepu Invitational Sevens after him and he's a finalist in Marae Investigate's 2011 Nga Toa Whakaihuwaka (Maori of the Year) announced today.

After taking on some of the injured Dan Carter's responsibilities like goal and tactical kicking at the World Cup, the Weepu Effect (a mimic of 2005's Chuck Norris Facts) went viral across the country. The phenomenon suddenly had the halfback capable of absurdly fictional feats like slamming a revolving door, dividing by zero and destroying the periodic table because 'Piri Weepu only recognises the element of surprise'.

However, as Weepu says, "a long time has passed since the World Cup". Living a short distance from Eden Park in Mt Roskill, he now gets a chance to offer the Blues that element of surprise over the next two Super Rugby seasons - or at least he will once he overcomes the minor groin niggle which ruled him out of yesterday's warm-up against the Hurricanes in Whangarei.

Weepu's flexible on where he wants to play - with Alby Mathewson a halfback option and Gareth Anscombe and Michael Hobbs lining up at first-five. He would relish more time at pivot inside his All Blacks and former Hurricanes teammate Ma'a Nonu who is expected to join the Blues from Japan by round three.

"I wouldn't mind playing a bit at 10," Weepu says.

Before that there's work to do fitness-wise after a summer of grazing and celebrating the World Cup win.

"I had a good break; I spent quality time at home with the family. A few cuzzies came back from Oz, too. We ate, played a bit of touch, did some free diving and got the old tennis racquet out.

"It was worth it because we work so hard during 10 months of the year. You need a decent break. I've been doing it a few years now so you get back and work your arse off to get into shape. It's not getting any easier because I'm an old man [28] in rugby years.

"This week has involved heaps of fitness like jumping on the grinding machine for 10km which takes me about 23 minutes going hard out."

The Weepu Effect might paint him as invincible but he does possess a sense of vulnerability, like being absent from his Wellington-based daughters Keira and Taylor for the majority of the season.

"That will be tough, but I'm making a living so they can eventually live the life they want ... we can visit plenty of playgrounds when I get back."

- Herald on Sunday

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