Sport Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final teams: Highlanders get injury boost, Blues lose star flanker
The European model is best for both New Zealand and Australia
Like gold being refined and purified by fire, Super Rugby Aotearoa has refined the New Zealand players and balanced the New Zealand teams to be better than ever. It would be a mistake to get rid of it. However, if the main concern with Super Rugby Aotearoa is increased injuries due to its intensity, or feeling like it’s a bit stale, then simply follow the European model and play Super Rugby Trans-Tasman throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa on designated weekends. This would give the New Zealand teams plenty of breaks from playing each other.
The Highlanders have named an unchanged side for Saturday’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final, but their opponents the Blues haven’t been so lucky.
Both lock Pari Pari Parkinson and winger Jona Nareki have been named to line up for the Landers despite lingering injury concerns, although the duo still have to fully prove their fitness at training before taking the field for the decider. If they are given the all-clear, it means the side will be unchanged from the one which defeated the Brumbies last round to book their place in the final.
Blues flanker Tom Robinson has been ruled out following a head knock sustained last week against the Force. One of the Auckland side’s best players all season, Robinson’s absence is a major blow for the hosts, although they do have a more than capable replacement at blindside flanker in the form of All Black Akira Ioane.
To TT or not TT, is that the question?
If Australian rugby is to grow revenue and participation, beyond the resident New Zealanders, it must win the hearts and minds of 25 million Australians. In order to do that, whether we like it or not, we must commit to developing national domestic rugby competitions, like Super Rugby AU. If we want more of our fellow 25 million Australians following and playing rugby, and paying for Stan subscriptions, we must have a domestic rugby tournament to rival the NRL, AFL, and A-League – with internationals the icing on the cake.
There’s no sign of prop Ofa Tuungafasi for the Blues either, with the front-rower set for minor surgery on his knee which has troubled him throughout the season.
In some better injury news for the Blues, flyhalf Otere Black has overcome a knee injury to take the number ten jersey.
“Otes got through fully today,” coach Leon MacDonald said after the team’s Thursday training session.
“He took quite a heavy bang to his leg on Tuesday, but has recovered really well. The medical staff have done a great job, and he took a full part in training today without any signs of anything. I’m really stoked for him.”
Video: QLDER: Wally Lewis' changes for Origin Game II (Wide World of Sports)
For the Highlanders, co-captain and hooker Ash Dixon will make his 100th appearance for the club in the final.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Round 5 teams: Reds without key players as Brumbies bring back Wallabies
The Queensland Reds will be without James O’Connor once again for their final Super Rugby match of the year, and Suliasi Vunivalu has joined him in the casualty ward. O’Connor was a gameday withdrawal from the Reds’ loss to the Blues with a neck complaint, while Vunivalu sustained a hamstring injury during the match. In some positive news for the Reds, Bryce Hegarty has been given the all-clear to start in place of O’Connor at flyhalf after also missing last week’s defeat, and flanker Fraser McReight has been added to the bench following his surprise omission in Round 4.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final teams
Blues vs Highlanders
Saturday, 5:05pm (AEST), Eden Park
(15-1): Zarn Sullivan, Bryce Heem, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Mark Telea, Otere Black, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Nepo Laulala, Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman
Bench: Ray Niuia, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Josh Goodhue, Blake Gibson, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, AJ Lam
(15-1): Josh Ioane, Sio Tomkinson, Michael Collins, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (cc), Kazuki Himeno, Billy Harmon, Hugh Renton, Bryn Evans, Pari Pari Parkinson, Siate Tokolahi, Ash Dixon (cc), Ethan de Groot.
Bench: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Josh Hohneck, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Sam Gilbert, Teariki Ben-Nicholas
Stop complaining that Super Rugby Aotearoa is too intense and boring .
I want to make an appeal to my fair-minded Kiwi friends on The Roar. Let me tell you the plan, and then let me address your concern. Here’s the plan. For the next two years, we stick with a separate Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa competition with six teams each. A six-team home-and-away season will take us to 13 weeks including finals, a bye week, and an Anzac Bledisloe Cup game (see below). Both the AU and Aotearoa finals would be played to a packed house, as would the mid-season Anzac Bledisloe Cup game.