Makos v Taranaki
Express rugby writer John Alexander warms up the competition for the Ranfurly Shield challenge in Taranaki tonight, with a feeble riposte from Daily News rugby lad Glenn McLean.
JOHN ALEXANDER : What's all the fuss about. Of course the Tasman Makos will win the Ranfurly Shield on Saturday night.
I feel for Taranaki fans, I really do. They don't have a chance - they just need to look at the capabilities of the mighty Makos.
A few facts. The Mako is the fastest species of rugby player. It's speed has been recorded at 50khm with bursts of up to 74kmh. That's the average speed of our backs.
They can leap approximate 9 metres high (go Joe Wheeler). Some scientists suggest the Mako can swim up to 100kmh and if the weather up there in cowpat land is anything like it usually is, the ability to swim fast will be crucial.
There are cases when an angry Mako has jumped into a boat after having been hooked, so they'd better look out if they try and tackle one tomorrow. Any doubts about the Makos' ability to win the shield were erased last Friday when they wiped the might of Canterbury off Trafalgar Park and the great thing about this team is they'll leave it until the last minute to break Taranaki hearts.
It's all about entertainment for and trying to make a contest of it. I hope the Taranaki boys can at least do that.
Here in our top of the south paradise, we rate Taranaki and we applaud them for winning the shield, but they've had their fun. Now it's our turn.
Craig Clarke and Andre Taylor. They know it's time up for the shield tenure. No wonder they pulled out injured. Smart men. And even Maniototo's favourite son and keen wild life man Andrew Hore has opted to ride the pine.
We've only challenged once for the mighty log and were robbed by disgraceful refereeing decision in losing by six points to Wellington.
Action Jackson's the man with the whistle this time and he's got the opportunity to write himself into Makos folklore when the challengers win. A free vineyard, life time supply of wine, as much salmon as he can eat, all spring to mind as incentives for Jacko to get it right.
It's time for the shield to come back to a place that was once its home - Lansdowne Park in Blenheim - where we'll soon turn our attentions to mauling the Southland Stags in the first defence on September 12.
Go the mighty Makos.
Taranaki Daily News rugby writer GLENN MCLEAN tells us why the Ranfurly Shield is staying put.
I think John has been enjoying too much of that wine he's offering to bribe the referee.
Let's put it simply for the fine people down south - it's just not going to happen, so save yourself some pain and find something else to do tonight.
There are a number of reasons why Taranaki will stretch their Ranfurly Shield tenure to four games, most notably our man in the No 10 jersey.
Beauden Barrett is the most promising rugby player in the country, has played first five-eighth at test rugby at a younger age than Dan Carter, is in deadly form with the boot (illustrated by his 100 per cent record last week) and is desperate to keep the Shield he helped win in the province he loves.
If that was not reason enough, we'll start from the front row and work our way back.
Props Chris King and Michael Bent are two of the best in this competition. Hard working, extremely strong with an ability to carry the ball over the advantage line.
Veteran hooker Laurence Corlett ain't half bad, either, while there is a man on the bench called Andrew Hore who, incidentally, has played 67 test matches.
Our second row is the envy of every other team in the country with former All Black Jason Eaton in career best form, while his locking partner, James Broadhurst, has the potential to get there as well.
Our loose forwards will work till the cows come home before veteran coach Colin Cooper unleashes another former All Black, Scott Waldrom, on, just to put the knife in.
Outside of Barrett we have Jayden Hayward, a local lad playing his 50th game while Kurt Baker can time his runs from fullback to perfection to free up wing Waisake Naholo, another promising talent who has already cut his teeth in the world champion New Zealand sevens squad.
Don't think for a minute our bench will let us down and there will be some satisfaction from bringing James Marshall on to torment his former team-mates.
Without trying to be too disrespectful to Tasman, the worst side in the competition in 2011, Marshall simply saw the light and headed to greener pastures.
As for trying to bribe the referee, we don't have to.
We'll have at least 15,000 appreciative Taranaki fans who don't take too kindly to upstarts from a little union with virtually no history coming in threatening to take our Shield.
The Marlborough Express