Mates of Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby halfback Brad Weber reckon his golfing pursuits may be interfering with his quest to regain a berth in the All Black team.
"If Brad can shoot an 86 at Bridge Pa perhaps he is spending too much time on the golf course and not enough on his rugby requirements," a former Magpies teammate and one of Weber's golfing victims, who wished to remain anonymous, texted in jest this week.
He was reacting to news of Weber's round at the Hastings Golf Club's Bridge Pa course on Monday when he played with his Magpies co-captain Gareth Evans and his mother Jenny Evans.
"That's the first time I've played since coming back to the Bay this winter after my Chiefs season. I don't play as often as Dad but I beat him every now and then," 13 handicapper Weber said, referring to his father and former Magpies manager and halfback Neil Weber who boasts a single figure handicap.
"I play a fair bit in Hamilton and I'm among the top three golfers in the Chiefs squad. Damian McKenzie is pretty sharp off the tee and the best, then there's myself and Marty McKenzie," Weber explained.
After continuing his hot Super Rugby form for the Chiefs during this season's Mitre 10 Cup campaign with the Magpies Weber, 27, admitted he was disappointed he missed out on the 51-strong All Black squad announced on Monday. With Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Weber's Chiefs teammate Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi named in the All Blacks 32-man squad and Bryn Hall and Mitch Drummond in the 19-man wider squad, one-test 2015 All Black Weber has dropped to six on the country's halfback rankings.
The 2011 world champion New Zealand under-20 team player has talked to All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster about his work ons.
"I want to keep those to myself," Weber said.
The member of the Maori All Black team for next month's tour of the United States, Brazil and Chile agreed tonight's Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal against his former Otago team at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium is an ideal opportunity to show the All Black selectors what they are missing out on.
"I've played some of my best rugby this year. I just have to do what I have been trying to do all year. Nothing much changes ... I just have to keep trying to play well."
Weber, who played all of his nine games for Otago in 2012 as a substitute, pointed out both teams have improved since their August 24 round two clash which the Magpies won 31-25.
"It feels like we are a different team from back then. It's going to be interesting."
He agreed the Magpies were good enough to reach the final.
"It's not so much to do with the wins we have had. It's more bout the attitude and the way we have played. People see that we care. The attitude has been great.
"Being fit and in good nick has helped my own game too," he added.
His disappointment after the Magpies failed to win the Ranfurly Shield when beaten 42-22 by Waikato, another of his former teams, on September 13 was easy to see. If he can help the Magpies earn a final berth that will be a pretty good second prize.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich is thrilled to have a close to full-strength side available for the trip south. New All Black squad member Evans has recovered from his knee injury, Maori All Black and Hurricanes prop Ben May has recovered from his hamstring injury and substitute hooker Ben Power has been cleared of his concussion issues.
All three missed the 29-0 loss to Tasman last week as did regular second five-eighth Pasqualle Dunn who has returned after family commitments in Auckland. Ozich pointed out that utility back Danny Toala did enough during his start against the Mako to earn a spot on tonight's subs bench.
"Danny is seen as a long-term midfield-utility player. He has the ability to get over the gain line and has good skills."
It's no secret the depth of the respective subs benches could have a big influence on the outcome of tonight's clash. With the likes of loosies Josh Kaifa and Devan Flanders and front rowers Power, Joe Apikotoa and Jason Long as well as Toala, winger Michael Buckley and halfback Folau Fakatava the Magpies are well served in this department.
Otago captain and fullback Michael Collins will play his 50th match for the hosts. In the only change to Otago's starting XV used in the Ranfurly Shield win against Waikato, All Black Sevens excitement machine Vilimoni Koroi replaces Jona Nareki on the left wing.
Nareki damaged his scrotum against Waikato. Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman returns to the Otago camp after two months with the All Blacks and will get time off the subs bench.
Otago coach Ben Herring said there was a temptation to pick Coltman in the starting side but he wanted to reward Sekonaia Pole for good performances over the past couple of weeks.
Teams for the 7.35pm match:
Hawke's Bay Magpies: JJ Taulagi, Jonah Lowe, Stacey Ili, Pasqualle Dunn, Mason Emerson, Lincoln McClutchie, Brad Weber (co-captain), Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Gareth Evans (co-captain), Geoff Cridge, Michael Allardice, Tom Parsons, Ben May, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Mark Braidwood. Substitutes: Forwards, Ben Power, Joe Apikotoa, Jason Long, Josh Kaifa, Devan Flanders. Backs, Folau Fakatava, Danny Toala, Michael Buckley.
Otago: Michael Collins (captain), Mitchell Scott, Matt Faddes, Sio Tomkinson, Vilimoni Koroi, Josh Ioane, Kurt Hammer, Dylan Nel, Slade McDowall, Joketani Koroi, Josh Dickson, Sione Misiloi, Hisa Sasagi, Sekonaia Pole, Jonah Aoina. Substitutes: Forwards, Liam Coltman, Tom Hill, George Bower, Tom Rowe, James Lentjes, Naulia Dawai. Backs, Josh Renton, Taylor Haugh.