16 February 2019 11:35
In the long minutes before kick-off tonight, Blues head coach Leon MacDonald and his Crusaders counterpart Scott Robertson will meet on the Eden Park pitch. They will shake hands and make a bit of small talk and then they'll wish each other all the best and return to watching their teams prepare to do battle in an opening match which will help set the tone for their respective seasons. MacDonald was Robertson's assistant as the Crusaders stormed to the Super Rugby title in 2017 before he left Christchurch, to spend more time with his family in Blenheim, and then signed with the Blues less than a year later. To say eyebrows were raised at the Crusaders' Rugby Park headquarters after MacDonald signed to be Tana Umaga's assistant would be a big understatement but things change quickly in professional sport, and it's clear MacDonald saw a quicker pathway to a head coaching role in Auckland. Indeed, that was borne out months later when the new Blues board effectively demoted Umaga and installed MacDonald as head coach.
"We haven't talked at all actually," MacDonald said after his team's final significant training run of the week, when asked if any texts had been sent to the man known as "Razor". MacDonald is known as "Rangi" after the knockabout little character in the Footrot Flatscartoon for his toughness and disregard shown to his wellbeing during his 122 games for the Crusaders and 56 tests for the All Blacks. Robertson, the former Crusaders and All Blacks loose forward, is a little different as evidenced by his breakdancing celebrations and general laidback approach to life but he is just as intense as MacDonald when it comes to the preparation and wellbeing of his players and the thirst for success. In this they are very similar, their methods shaped by former mentor Robbie Deans whose legacy continues in the form of so many of his former players coaching at this level including Aaron Mauger, Mark Hammett, Daryl Gibson, Tabai Matson and Todd Blackadder. "The way you coach is made up of years and years of playing with different teams and under different coaches and I think you form your own formula from that," MacDonald said.
Nonu's All Blacks teammate, Sonny Bill Williams, will come off the bench after being unavailable for the pre-season under national player restrictions. MacDonald has named a strong starting lineup featuring current All Blacks Rieko Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu and Dalton Papalii, with props Ofa Tu'ungafasi and new signing Karl Tu'inukuafe joining Williams on the bench. Otere Black will start at fly-half for the Blues after missing the entire 2018 season because of a knee injury. Meanwhile, the Crusaders have named a strong side featuring 13 All Blacks, including 10 in the starting side. Elsewhere, Bryn Hall and All Black Richie Mo'unga form the Crusaders' halves pairing, while Test backs Ryan Crotty (inside centre), George Bridge (left wing) and David Havili (fullback) have all been named to start.
"The coaches Gav, Paves and Morgs alongside our support team have invested a great deal of time and energy into helping me develop and for that I'm hugely grateful. "We went to Marbella, and he didn't get involved, but he trained enough to be ready to compete like he did in the last game. Wolves' next game after City is at Bournemouth next Saturday, but Nuno says his team selection will not be determined by having a decent period of time for recovery. "We have given them two good games this season, one at home and one away. Warren Whiteley will lead a strong Lions side when they take the field against the Jaguares in their Super Rugby opener in Argentina on Saturday.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (c), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortego Desio, 7 Rodrigo Bruni, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas Lions team and injury news Carlu Sadie and Stephan Lewies will make their Super Rugby debut for the Lions in the starting line-up. Cape Town - Jaguares coach Gonzalo Quesada has named his team to tackle the Lions in Saturday's Super Rugby encounter in Buenos Aires. "It took us a long time to decide the team that will start on Saturday. The pre-season was very good and there are positions that are very even, so it was difficult to make the decisions," Quesada told the Jaguares' official website.