Hurricanes Jordie Barrett and Ricky Riccitelli go face to face with pair of cheetahs
The wrath of their own coaching staff might turn out to be more injurious to Jordie Barrett and Ricky Riccitelli than two cheetahs turned out to be.
The Hurricanes' pair took to the cheetah enclosure at Wellington Zoo on Friday, to promote Saturday's Super Rugby clash with - wait for it - the Cheetahs.
Barrett and Riccitelli were fully briefed and accompanied by zoo staff, for what's apparently a popular feature of zoo life. It's just that the marketing ploy hadn't been run past the Hurricanes' coaches first.
"I jumped at the opportunity when Toby [Hurricanes media and communications manager Toby Robson] asked me. Then I think he asked Beaudy and he wasn't too keen, so he mustn't be a fan of cheetahs or something," Jordie Barrett said.
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Barrett's brother might've passed but Riccitelli didn't need to be asked twice.
The size of the two male cheetahs provided an initial shock for the two Hurricanes. Keep still and quiet and you'll find the animals are very tame was the basis of the instructions, before the pair were escorted in.
"I was certainly expecting them to be more confronting," said Barrett.
But after showing some initial interest in their visitors, which included coming close enough to be patted, the cheetahs sought out the sunniest area of the enclosure and left the two Hurricanes to it. The handlers had predicted as much, even if Barrett said he and Riccitelli had felt slightly anxious when they walked in.
"I was more nervous when they said there's certain restrictions for people who can go in there, so I thought there must be some aspect of danger and it did get me a little bit nervous," Barrett said.
Riccitelli looked the more apprehensive of the two, but later said the absolute highlight of the experience was when the cheetahs had closed to within touching distance.
It was nearer than Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara said he would've fancied being.
"I just got informed before that they've been at the zoo. They're a little more courageous than me, I don't know if I'd jump in a cage with some cheetahs. It would scare me," Perenara said.
Now it's a matter of finding out what sort of interest the rugby playing Cheetahs show in the Hurricanes, at Westpac Stadium.
"Well, hopefully they're as lazy and tame as what they were today," said Barrett.