SANZAR didn’t consult Super Rugby clubs on bonus point change

The proposed changes to bonus points in Super Rugby has come as a surprise to clubs.

Gone are they days when four tries will earn sides a bonus point, instead now a team will earn an extra point if they can manage to score three more tries than their opponents.

SANZAR, the tournament organisers, want to see more tries in Super Rugby this season and have copied the existing bonus point format of the French Top 14.

Consultation on the change didn’t occur between SANZAR and Super Rugby clubs.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder says that he only learnt of the change after receiving an email from SANZAR this week.

While the new bonus point system could entice more exciting rugby in 2016, it could also see teams be much more close on the table, particularly in the top eight.

Laulala and Bird suffer serious injuries during Chiefs training

Two high profile Chiefs players have succumbed to injury during pre season training.

Nepo Laulala will be out of rugby for 12 months following a substantial knee injury at training.

Laulala tore three ligaments in his right knee, the ACL, PCL, and MCL during a team training on Friday last week. The prop will undergo reconstructive surgery with an expected recovery time of 12-months.

The news gets even worse for the Chiefs.

Chiefs lock and fellow big signing Dominic Bird has been ruled out for the first 10 weeks of the season after fracturing his right foot.

More to come.

Pakuranga Rugby Club to host The Blues

The Blues will play a pre season match against the Melbourne Rebels at the Pakuranga Rugby Club.

With free admission, Pakuranga Rugby Club manager Stephen Hackett says the matchup will be exciting for both the club and Auckland’s Eastern community.

Hackett also said that the club has taken significant strides on and off the field in the hopes of hosting the Blues for a match one day, and the reward has paid off, especially for locals who have gotten behind rugby in recent years.

Taking place on Thursday February 4th, the match will be the first of three pre season hit outs for the Blues.

 

Damian McKenzie fit and ready to smile again

Damian McKenzie is back in Hamilton and ready to begin what will be an important season, but like always, he will do it with a smile.

After a short holiday with friends and family, McKenzie has begun his second season in Super Rugby at the Chiefs, and his game has already come on leaps and bounds.

For McKenzie himself, you get the feeling that it will never be about what other people say, but more about what the he believes.

McKenzie believes in himself – and that is his greatest asset.

In many ways, McKenzie is the exact opposite of what you’d imagine.

Quietly enthusiastic, good looking, and a freakishly good skill set that could be world-class, McKenzie has all the makings to be one of the most exciting rugby players of this generation.

Last year, McKenzie was the apprentice, but some would say that in 2016 he is ready to go to the next level.

But McKenzie can only reach that level if given a long-term chance.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that McKenzie is ready to kick on after an impressive ending to 2015 but hasn’t hinted at the possibility of being first starter on game day.

“If you look at Damian, he learnt a hell of a lot from last season, continued that form on in ITM Cup, and we hope he will step up even further,” Rennie said.

Some would say that McKenzie is at risk of playing second fiddle to returning All Black first five Aaron Cruden throughout the Super Rugby season in 2016.

McKenzie’s ability to have an impact playing at fullback is clear, but many rugby critics remain sceptical.

Though McKenzie possesses surprising strength and blistering pace, qualities suited to a fullback, all evidence so far has shown that he has much more of an impact on a game when playing at first five.

McKenzie’s all round game was much improved during ITM Cup rugby with the Mooloos and all signs point to that trend continuing with the Chiefs.

The youngster wont have it easy in 2016 with two former All Blacks playing in his position, but like always, McKenzie will quietly go about his own game.

The shuffling and rotation of the first fives won’t continue in 2016 so McKenzie is in the best position to impress again.

Sam Cane’s co-captaincy role at Chiefs points to future leadership

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that selection Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden as co-captains was a long time in coming.

Combined, Cane and Cruden combine to form over 120 caps for the Chiefs in Super Rugby and have been part of the wider leadership group for several seasons.

Cruden has already co-captained the Chiefs back in 2014, and Cane is believed to be in the running for All Black captaincy some time in his still young but impressive career.

“Obviously we have had this in mind for a long time, they are both high quality and passionate Chiefs men,” Rennie said.

Rennie says that both players are good people with proven leadership success playing rugby internationally.

“Sam is a real strategic thinker, Aaron has massive expectations of himself and those around him, both those two are keen to lead and make a big difference here,” Rennie said.

First pick fly half Aaron Cruden has been out of rugby since last year, but according to Rennie, will be fit and ready to go despite suffering a couple of tweaks to his calf during pre season.

Cruden will take part in two trail matches prior to the regular season beginning.

McKenzie and Volavola easily fill Crusaders’ playmaker exodus

Marty McKenzie and Ben Volavola have both arrived at the Crusaders with similar paths through Super Rugby.

New Zealand-born Marty McKenzie has dabbled in two different Super Rugby clubs and is a Maori All Black representative.

Ben Volavola was a key part of the Fijian national side at last years Rugby World Cup and has amassed eight caps for the Waratahs in Super Rugby.

Volavola and McKenzie give Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder reasonable playmaking ability at both first five and fullback during Super Rugby 2016.

Picking up these two eager but young footballers is a big win for the Crusaders.

Not only does it take care of the No.10 exodus that threatened to ruin any chance of a title in 2016, but it also provides a fresh injection of youth into a position that, in Crusaders colours, has always been filled by more senior heads i.e. Daniel Carter.

With lacking opportunity at the Chiefs, Marty McKenzie didn’t need much convincing to take his talents to the Crusaders. McKenzie slotted 23 points in seven Super Rugby appearances last season, proving he can kick with reasonable success.

Despite Volavola’s experience on the international stage, many believe that the confidence and counter attack game that Marty McKenzie possesses would warrant the starting role.

The pre season will give the Crusaders a good look at both McKenzie and Volavola, beginning with a matchup against the Hurricanes in Blenheim.

The 2016 Super Rugby season will be the last for Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.