Canterbury bound to get Makos' fans offside

JOHN ALEXANDER
Last updated 08:57 18/10/2012

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The more I think about it, the more I get wound up and annoyed at Canterbury reclaiming Makos' standout Jordan Taufua for the Red and Blacks' ITM Cup premiership semifinal rugby clash against Taranaki this weekend.

Taufua has been one of the star players for Tasman who play a semifinal in the championship division against Otago tomorrow night.

I know Taufua was a loan player from Canterbury and part of his contract stated that they could recall him at any time if the need arose.

I also realise Canterbury, like every other team in the competition, have injury issues, but surely with the vast talent pool at their disposal they should have been able to cope without having to scuttle another team's aspirations. Taufua definitely wanted to stay with Tasman.

If it had happened with two or three round-robin matches to play and, if Canterbury had been struggling to perform, I would have perhaps understood better - but they have not been struggling. They have hammered their opponents in the last few matches and I would have thought the last thing they needed was to pillage little brother's team to plug a gap.

Worse still, Taufua is only on the bench. He would not be up to speed with Canterbury's moves or systems so would only have a limited role to play anyway. Contrast the role he played for the Makos. He was the go-forward man, the dynamo, along with Shane Christie, of the pack. Most of the Makos forward momentum and plays revolved around his ability to carry the ball over the advantage line.

Now, coach Kieran Keane and his assistant Leon MacDonald have to reinvent the wheel for a one-off match where they are up against it anyway with major injuries of their own.

MacDonald and Canterbury coaches Tabai Matson and Scott Robertson were once team-mates but MacDonald's pleas to hold onto Taufua fell on deaf ears.

Yes Canterbury are following their contract to the letter and are within their contract rights but what about the spirit of friendship and the supposed co-operation between Crusaders franchise partners?

There is now no friendship between Tasman and Canterbury, certainly not from the supporters and, as for the Crusaders franchise, well that's a farce too because players are picked from anywhere.

The Crusaders will benefit from Tasman's development of Taufua this year, a man they didn't originally rate. He's signed for them and would definitely not have been noticed if he'd stayed in Christchurch.

I'm a born and bred Cantabrian and the Red and Blacks have always been a team I've followed with a lot of passion, except when they play the Makos. Not any more.

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All I can say is, go Taranaki and, guess what Canterbury, we beat you this year.

On a more positive note on the province I still care very strongly about, it was great to see a good crowd of more than 10,000 turn out on a Wednesday night in Christchurch to watch the All Whites play Tahiti.

A few years ago, if you put a game like that on mid-week at night, maybe three or four thousand at best would have shown at the old English Park.

The All Whites are now a very credible team, clearly illustrated by them going through the last World Cup unbeaten.

Players such as Blenheim-born Ben Sigmund, Ryan Nelsen, Shane Smeltz, Mark Paston, Wintson Reid and Tommy Smith are household names in the New Zealand sporting arena.

With the continuing development and success of our age-group teams abroad and more and more Kiwis plying their trade in the top divisions around the globe, the strength of our game is only going to continue to improve.

New Zealand have to draw or beat New Caledonia in the final match of this playoff series on March 22 (venue to be confirmed) and they will then, on November 15-19 next year, head into a home and away clash for a place in the World Cup finals.

- The Marlborough Express

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