Toby Robson's Super Rugby 'Team Talk'
Player of the week
Little in stature, big in heart. There was a symbolic moment late in the match last Friday when Cruden lowered Crusaders captain Richie McCaw in a textbook tackle.
Whether it's the co-captaincy or just his continuing maturating, Cruden stepped up to the mark in the Chiefs' opening match of the season. His defence set an example, his attack was probing and his communication constant.
Beauden Barrett's rise will no doubt continue, but with no Dan Carter in Super Rugby this season, Cruden will be unanimously dubbed the No 1, No 10 in New Zealand rugby if he plays the rest of the season at this level.
In the news: The Hurricanes helped bump up the numbers for Wellington's annual Round the Bays fun run to 14,000. After waking at 4am to watch their team play the Sharks the run provided therapeutic stress relief.
Physio's table: Tim Bateman (knee), Brad Shields (knee), Reggie Goodes (toe), Victor Vito (knee).
The good: For all the pressure they were under the Hurricanes conceded only two tries as their scrambling defence and openside Jack Lam's courage at the breakdown stopped a rout. Also, the Sharks look very, very good.
The bad: Two years after the scrum folded up on opening night against the Stormers, it was a case of deja vu in Durban where the Sharks had their way at the set piece. With four All Blacks in the tight five the Hurricanes need to do better.
In the news: Is Dave Rennie rugby's version of world-renowned motivational guru Tony Robbins? Teamtalk reckons Robbins' bestseller Awaken The Giant Within, is by Rennie's bedside. Robbins was clearly pondering the Chiefs injuries when he wrote: "Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow."
Physio's table: Brodie Retallick, Ben Afeaki (concussion), Kane Thompson (groin), August Pulu (knee), Mils Muliaina (elbow), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (ankle), Tanerau Latimer (elbow), Sam Cane (knee), Mahonri Schwalger (eye).
The good: Tackling technique. This looked like a clinic for kids as the Chiefs went low from the side with their eyes up and their backs straight. It was a contrast to Tyler Bleyendaal's head-down, back-bent, no-look miss that allowed Robbie Fruean to brush through for a try.
The bad: If the Crusaders had not missed six shots at goal the score would have been 25-7 with 19 minutes to play. The Chiefs are gutsy, but won't win like this every week.
In the news: The Highlanders are heralding a radical new recruitment strategy. You rip up the contracts of all your star players and replace them with complete unknowns. They are the first franchise to try it, but so far so good.
Physio's table: Brad Thorn (ribs).
The good: Jarrad Hoeata. The Taranaki lock-cum-loosie's talents were wasted last year as he tried too hard to be a hard man. His effort against the Blues suggests 2014 might be all about the footy, something he's clearly quite good at.
The bad: The Highlanders also touched up the Blues last season in Dunedin. Good start, but a long way to go for the southerners.
In the news: Tyler Bleyendaal's kicking. Teamtalk wants to put the house on red. Bleyendaal's next kick is going over. Has to be. C'mon red.... Goddamit! Another $100 on red. C'mon red. Has to be... you are kidding me.
Physio's table: Richie McCaw (sore calf), Ryan Crotty (sore calf), Colin Slade (sore calf)
The good: Owen Franks escapes a citing for swinging a forearm at a player on the ground on the stroke of halftime. That's probably because his aim was off and he missed Ben Tameifuna and clocked team-mate Sam Whitelock instead.
The bad: Did referee Chris Pollock and his assistants not see the Chiefs players continuing to advance after Tim Nanai-Williams' hack downfield in the 78th minute? It should have been a Crusaders penalty, but instead Chiefs wing James Lowe intercepted Nafi Tuitavake's pass to score an intercept try in the final play of the match.
In the news: Benji Marshall has a few tricks left. It was nice to see the former league star make an impact off the bench. He might surprise a few of the doubters yet.
Physio's table: Luke Braid (ankle), Francis Saili (foot), Ma'a Nonu (ankle)
The good: Patrick Tuipulotu looked a big rangy rig when he came on in the second half. Perhaps the Blues off-season search for a lock was right in front of them all along. And who else thinks Luke Braid is an underrated openside?
The bad: The Blues' attack was so predictable it was depressing. First five-eighth Chris Noakes shovelled to team-mates who tried to take on the world. So much talent, so little guile or imagination.
Granted, Israel Folau looked the goods for the Waratahs, but how about Reds fullback Aidan Toua? Teamtalk is willing to compare Toua's try against the Brumbies to those scored by the one and only Christian Cullen in his pomp.
Taua exploded out of Henry Speight's tackle then made everyone else look like they were in ski boots as he scorched 60 metres for the try. Brilliant.
Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff is making kicking cool again. He nailed 29 points for the Lions during their 34-10 routing of the Stormers. A week earlier he kicked all 21 of his side's point against the Cheetahs. After both matches he grabbed his safari jacket, hopped in his Datsun, popped an Emerson Lake & Palmer tape in the cassette deck and headed home to fire up the lava lamp. You dig.
Team of the week
Charles Piutau (Blues)
Richard Buckman (Highlanders)
Robbie Fruean (Chiefs)
Francis Saili (Blues)
Aseali Tikoirotuma (Chiefs)
Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)
TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
Nasi Manu (Highlanders)
Jack Lam (Hurricanes)
Liam Messam (Chiefs)
Jarrad Hoeata (Highlanders)
Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Owen Franks (Crusaders)
Rhys Marshall (Chiefs)
Jamie Mackintosh (Chiefs)