Sir John hitches ride in an effort to boost Blues

By Carolyne Meng-Yee

The car is passed each week to a squad member who commits the greatest gaffe. Photo / Doug Sherring
The car is passed each week to a squad member who commits the greatest gaffe. Photo / Doug Sherring

Sir John Kirwan has bought the Blues a secret weapon - helping drive them to a 10-out-of-10 start to the Super Rugby season.

A bright yellow 1967 Fiat Bambina might seem an unusual purchase for a rugby coach, but it's a symbol of how Kirwan is bringing his team together.

The car is passed each week to a squad member who commits the greatest gaffe.

Sir John, the Blues coach, said the recipient had to drive the car to and from practices. "It's just an opportunity for us get together once a week and everyone gets a chance to tell a story about someone who might have done something silly or something we can laugh at - so they get to 'win' the car."

The team have named the prize "Dick of the Week". But the story behind its purchase is indicative of the lengths Sir John is going to. He wanted it because it was old, small and distinctive. "Just imagine some of our guys driving around - some of them are pretty big. It's a hard car to drive so it just brings a bit of humour."

He bought the car in Wellington for about $7,000 and almost qualified as the first recipient when he tried to drive it to Auckland. "It blew up on the Desert Rd," he said. "It got towed back and I had to hitch to Taupo and then rent a car."

This week the driver is fullback Charles Piutau, whose face swelled to cartoon-like size when he ate bad seafood after the first game of the season.

In charge of handing over the keys, prop Angus Ta'avao - 1.94m and 124kg - has already had the vehicle twice, for tripping over and after being pranked on a fishing trip.

"I can't drive without the sunroof open. I have to wind the window down and let my arm out. The guy who drives it the week before has to give lessons to the new guy who drives it - because it has a double-clutch to change gears. When you get the hang of it you get a few looks, a few toots and there's a great stereo - so it's fun."

Ta'avao said the car was a small part of the culture Sir John was building. "He's set up a fresh new scene for everyone. It is refreshing - it is something different and all the boys are enjoying it."

- Herald on Sunday

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