Hurricanes don't look like playoffs contenders

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013

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POOR SHOWING: Hurricanes players react after allowing a try to Frank Halai.
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Beauden Barrett gets a kick away against the Crusaders.

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OPINION: A few things were revealed at the weekend. And I'm not talking about the streaker Ruben Wiki dealt to at the Warriors match, either.

The first is the Hurricanes are not title contenders. In fact, on the evidence of Saturday night's performance against the Blues, they are not playoff contenders either.

Whether their mid-table efforts from a year ago filled them with a false sense of how good they actually are is uncertain. What is not is the fact that if they have too many repeat performances like that, they won't be winning too many games against the better sides in this competition.

They do deserve some slack, given it was their first game, but for me, they just looked too regimented, with the players almost appearing to look like they were thinking too much on the field instead of just playing naturally.

There will be plenty of debate around the awarding of a penalty try after Frank Halai battered the ball dead, but, for me, it was justified, as was the yellow card.

It was a deliberate act to stop a try being scored and I applaud veteran Vinny Munro for making the call.

It was also disappointing to see just 10,500 at the Cake Tin, a figure that looked inflated and must have included about 5000 who were enjoying the corporate hospitality.

If the Hurricanes players were hoping to feed off the energy of the crowd, they would have been left hungry. It must be deflating for the players to run out and see so many empty seats.

Another revelation from the weekend is that Blues fullback Charles Piutau will be an All Black before the end of June.

I would watch the Blues to watch him.

He is one of the most natural players I've seen in a long time and should be converted into a wing if the All Blacks keep Israel Dagg at the back.

Revelation No 3 is the Chiefs have the best coaching staff in New Zealand rugby.

Listening to rookie rake Rhys Marshall talk of the confidence Dave Rennie, Tom Coventry and Wayne Smith install in the champions is refreshing.

Coventry also provided Marshall with the necessary skill base to make his transition into Super Rugby seamless.

The Chiefs' clash with the Highlanders was far more entertaining than most of the dross dished up across the Tasman.

It will be interesting to see if the Crusaders can produce the same high level of play when they head to Eden Park on Friday night.

The final revelation is the depth of quality openers in New Zealand cricket at the moment is sick.

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Hamish Rutherford and BJ Watling do not have the skill set to deal with England's Steve Finn and James Anderson and I seriously doubt Peter Fulton will change that in the test environment.

Finally, fantastic to see Central Districts win the Plunket Shield. It's a bloody hard slog from start to finish and they deserve some genuine recognition for what they have achieved.

Maybe bringing half of Auckland B into their ranks was not such a bad thing after all.

- Taranaki Daily News

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