Dylan Cleaver on sport

Sport analysis and comment from APN's Head of Sport Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Blockbuster double-header

Aaron Cruden. Photo / Getty Images.
Aaron Cruden. Photo / Getty Images.

In the long history of Bad Ideas, a younger Winston Churchill looking at his naval maps and declaring, "this Gallipoli place looks like a fine spot for a skirmish" and Captain Edward Smith's "I can't see any ice ... full steam ahead", would rank somewhere near the top.

Stopping the Super 15 for the best part of a month just as the tournament was reaching a crescendo stops short of being catastrophic. Nevertheless, it is a Very Bad Idea.

But you know what, Sanzar might just have got away with it. In New Zealand, anyway.

The three-test Ireland series held a limited amount of intrigue and after an insipid performance from the tourists in the first test, highlighted by a Julian Savea hat-trick on debut, a bore-fest was predicted.

Ireland's willing performance in Christchurch, which probably should have led to their first victory over the All Blacks, changed the whole tenor of the month.

With Steve Hansen making a raft of changes - some forced, some not - there was a sense of urgency ahead of the Hamilton clash.

What we got was a complete All Black performance. In many ways it was as impressive as the World Cup semifinal domination of the Wallabies, albeit in a far less pressurised atmosphere. It brought home just how much special talent there is playing in the Super 15 and most of it is concentrated in four New Zealand franchises.

Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have proved there is life after Daniel Carter. You could say the same of Sam Cane and Richie McCaw. Aaron Smith's swift passing game threatens to add an extra dimension to All Black attack strategies for years to come.

In short, there is a lot to look forward to.

Tonight, Cruden and Cane, who can only make the Chiefs' bench, travel south to take on Smith and the Highlanders. Tomorrow night, Savea and Barrett combine for the Hurricanes to take on the wise old heads of the Crusaders.

Both games have serious playoff implications, particularly for the Highlanders and Hurricanes who are entering must-win territory.

For a month, the Super 15 has been on "pause"; it's time to hit "play" again.

- NZ Herald

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