Christian Cullen: Gutsy victory just the tonic

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Friday night's win over the Blues was just what the Hurricanes needed. Photo / Getty Images
Friday night's win over the Blues was just what the Hurricanes needed. Photo / Getty Images

Friday night's win over the Blues was just what the Hurricanes needed.

There might have been a danger of them panicking about their situation with two defeats to start the campaign even though they hadn't been playing that badly.

They didn't front against a firing Brumbies outfit in their opening game and were pipped by the Highlanders in round two but showed some terrific backbone to hold out the Blues on Friday.

You only have to be a little bit off mentally and you're beaten, especially in the tough New Zealand conference, but they held on even though they were missing a few key players through injury.

Super Rugby is more of a marathon than a sprint than ever before. As Tana said last week, you don't win it in the first game and you definitely don't lose it in the second.

As sides have shown in the past, including last year's Highlanders, teams need to be playing well at the right time. It's quite possible for any New Zealand team to get on a roll at some stage and string three or four wins together, especially when they have a run of games against South African and Australian sides.

Of course, the Hurricanes are the only New Zealand side who haven't won Super Rugby and there's an argument that last season was their year.

This season was always going to be a difficult one for the Hurricanes. They have lost so much talent and experience with the departures of Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Ben Franks and Jeremy Thrush and that takes time to replace.

It's a shame both Smith and Nonu left at the same time because it would have been invaluable to have had one around to mentor a new midfielder.

It's like when you have two farm dogs and you lose one - a new pup can learn off the old dog. In this case, the two old dogs left at the same time and two pups have taken over. This puts added pressure on first five-eighths Beauden Barrett, who had the luxury of playing inside Nonu and Smith last season.

One who was a new pup last year was Nehe Milner-Skudder and I really hope he's not out too long with his shoulder injury because he's crucial for the Hurricanes. He will find life more difficult and I remember Eric Rush sitting down with me before my second season and telling me how much tougher I would find it because opposition teams had a better idea what I was going to do.

There's a temptation to try to evolve, learn some new tricks, and, while a player should always look to develop, it's important players remember what got them there in the first place.

He was awesome to watch last year and what pleased me more than anything was the fact there's still a place for the smaller man in rugby. It's the same for the likes of Aaron Cruden, Damian McKenzie and Lions duo Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies.

If those latter two keep performing for the Lions, then they could become very difficult to beat once they get home to South Africa and could even be among the title contenders. That's not a sentence I thought I would write this year.

- Herald on Sunday

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