He’ll be a big loss, Chris Boyd. Not just from a rugby perspective.
Media performers rarely come as patient or dry as the outgoing Hurricanes head coach.
So it’s not just the Northampton Saints who are gaining a terrific operator, but the good folk that report on the team too.
Take Thursday as an example.
The Hurricanes, in case you missed it, are just back from games in South Africa and Argentina. They lost the first of those, thanks to an insipid display, while the second was won in scrappy fashion.
* Chiefs’ McKenzie re-signs with NZ Rugby
* Barrett brothers to tangle in Wellington
* French club will break bank for Beauden
* Overseas All Black is just a matter of time
* Smaller countries given RWC hosting boost
Their reward was a long flight home and a clash with the Crusaders; not merely unbeaten after two bonus-point wins, but coming off their record eighth Super Rugby title as well.
And yet Boyd was asked if this was a game that couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I think if you could design the competition yourself, you wouldn’t come back from so much travel to play the current champions,” Boyd said with an admirably straight face.
“So it’s not ideal but, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of derby games now with the double round, so they come thick and fast and they’re all tough.
“The Kiwi conference is a great conference; they’re all great sides, none better than the Crusaders, so it’s a big challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
That’s the overall message from the Hurricanes this week. Everyone’s who’s had media commitments has stressed how fresh they feel and how enthused they are about the challenge presented by the Crusaders.
The reality is they’re on a hiding to nothing. Players typically come back from a trip like the Hurricanes’ unable to sleep and with their motor skills all over the shop.
Never mind counting the dropped balls at training on one hand. You’ll need all your fingers and toes after those timezone changes.
That might not be a big deal for teams whose method revolves around a mixture of scrummaging and booting the snot out of the ball, but the Hurricanes are rather more expansive than that.
“I don’t think we’ll button back how much we’ll play,” said Boyd. “We’ve just got to be more accurate with what we do.”
To some degree that must be exactly what the Crusaders want to hear. They’re past masters at inviting the opposition to play and then punishing their mistakes.
That’s not news to Boyd, but doesn’t alter what the Hurricanes have planned.
“We often talk about risk and reward and I don’t think we dial that back in any way. We just have to react quicker and better when we cough it up and give them an opportunity.”
A bit’s been said about the injury-enforced absence of Crusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, but Boyd’s not of the belief that one man makes that much difference.
“We beat the Crusaders here last year [31-22] and Beaudy [Barrett] withdrew out of that game late and Otere [Black] stepped up and had a man-of-the-match performance.
“We’re always nervous when our stars are out, but one thing about New Zealand rugby is one man’s demise is another man’s opportunity and I’m sure [Mitchell] Hunt will be good for them or [Mike] Delany will be good for them, just like Otere was for us last year.”
Besides, this game will be decided by whether the Hurricanes forwards can put in a credible showing. Not whether Barrett’s a better first five-eighth than Hunt.
AT A GLANCE
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Gareth Evans, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields (c), Sam Lousi, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Fraser Armstrong, Marcel Renata, Michael Fatialofa, Blade Thomson, Richard Judd, Ihaia West, Vince Aso.
Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Mitch Hunt, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Mike Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Chris King, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Billy Harmon, Mitchell Drummond, Mike Delany, Manasa Mataele.