Scotty Stevenson 's Opinion

Sky TV's Scotty Stevenson on rugby

Scotty Stevenson: Bateman returns

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Canes needed a hero and now they've found him.

Time Bateman. Photo / Getty Images
Time Bateman. Photo / Getty Images

Bateman Returns! The headline was simple and it wasn't a typo. The Hurricanes' fans finally have something to cheer about! For, as now we all know, the only thing that has been missing from the Hurricanes' winning formula this year has been Tim Bateman. Tim bloody Bateman. It's so simple!

Why no one has cottoned on to this earlier is a mystery. Perhaps it is because we have all complicated the issue, because there have been just too many theories, because, as we have seen during a certain recent air disaster, a vacuum of quality information will always lead to wild speculation, and there has been plenty of that when it comes to the disappearance of the Hurricanes' winning ways. (To recap: they vanished some time in the middle of last year - or last decade, depending on your point of view - and, barring one small radar blip a fortnight ago, haven't been seen since.)

Even before this season started, Taranaki Rugby gave up the search, and went and laid claim to some new winning ways. This only fanned the flames of the fantasy blaze the capital franchise's fans love to dance around, convinced as they are every year that this year will be their year, despite not yet having had a year in the past 18 years during which any such claim has been justified.

Taranaki's departure was more fuel for the fire. No one thought of the absence of Tim Bateman.

There was all sorts of talk about the coaching staff, especially Mark Hammett, who had the temerity to move to Wellington from Christchurch thinking he knew a thing or two about how a winning franchise worked.

The old timers, grumbling all the while, sat in the Green Parrot and answered each other's rhetorical questions between mouthfuls of T-bone and egg.

Those on the inside called for immediate inquiries, but backed down upon the realisation they would be implicated because they had appointed him in the first place. Those who had been sent packing counted their titles on no hands.

And still, no one considered the impact of tiny Timmy Bateman.

And it's been staring everyone in the face all this time. All this discussion about a lack of counter attack. All the chatter about a lack of impact from the back field. It's all false, as it turns out, a smokescreen. The Hurricanes lead the competition in tries scored from kick returns and turnovers, after all. No, what this team needed was a hero. And he's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast and he's gotta be fresh from the fight! Bonnie Tyler was looking for T. Bateman! He's definitely footloose! And you just know it had to be in this game that he made his triumphant return to the Canes. Against his old franchise in his home town, with his team's backs against the wall and their heads on the block. All hail the silent saviour! It's a masterstroke of pressure selection! The man who flies under the radar, righting the ship - the ultimate mixed metaphor - manipulating the midfield.

I like the fact Bateman is the great hope of the Hurricanes. You won't find a better, more underrated player going around. And how good would it be if his words this week are heeded by his teammates?

How good would it be if a franchise that has been obsessed with individual stars for so long could get a return on the faith its fans have now placed in the hands of the ultimate team man? The greatest thing from Greymouth. Bateman Forever!

Unless of course it doesn't come off and the Hurricanes slump to one and five against a Crusaders side that will be fizzing like Foxton to give Kieran Read a perfect 100th cap celebration; a side full of lads who last year went up to the Cake Tin and planted a Canterbury flag in the middle of the pitch!

I don't know what we'll all do then.

Mind you, if that does happen and you're after headlines for next week, "Victor Looking For Victory" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Carin' Kieran
It will be a great moment for Kieran Read tonight whwn he receives his 100-cap mere. I can't think of a guy who cares more about his teams than Read, and who is more respected by his teammates. He's also a serious bloke, but not so serious that he can't have a joke. My favourite? At the Steinlarger Awards in December, I asked him if there was anything he hadn't done in 2013. His answer: "Got my wife pregnant."

Guildford MIA
We know he's had his battles and we know he's heading away at the end of the season, but surely Zac Guildford is better than a bit-part development player for the Crusaders. For a side struggling to make meters on the edge, a workhorse winger might be the spark required for the team and for Izzy Dagg. We know he won't be playing tonight, but now the question is will he get to South Africa?

Set-piece truth
So much talk about the scrums in Super Rugby - and not without reason; resets are still an issue - but it's the lineout we should be discussing. More tries are being scored from lineouts than from any other play in the game. Of the 174 tries scored so far, 59 started from a lineout, and only 24 had their genesis at the scrum.

- NZ Herald

Scotty Stevenson

Sky TV's Scotty Stevenson on rugby

Scotty Stevenson is a Sky TV commentator and Editor of SKY Sport - The Magazine

Read more by Scotty Stevenson

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