READER REPORT:

Hurricanes win not enough for naysayers

RICHARD MCFADYEN
Last updated 14:30 17/03/2014
Conrad Smith and Mark Hammett
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ

WINNING MOMENT: Will Mark Hammett's detractors ease off following the Hurricanes blowout win over the Cheetahs?

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What a win.

The Hurricanes' victory on Saturday will have done many things for many people, but surely two men in particular will be the most affected.

The embattled architects of a new culture at the club, Mark Hammett and Alama Ieremia, have secured themselves a moment of relative peace after the 60-27 drubbing of the Cheetahs.

Theirs must have been a deep sleep when it arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The knives won't be sheathed yet, though. Despite the pure electricity on display for 80 minutes - making the game the pick of the season so far - it is doubtful that the loudest section of the general public will get behind a stay of execution for the helmsmen, such is the dire state of many self-proclaimed "fans".

You can bet a stack of Lord Rutherfords that the naysayers will find little in the performance to sate their bloodlust; nothing less than a pair of Hurricane hands lifting the entire 18 kilograms of the Super Rugby trophy high over their heads will do that.

The campaign for the winds of change to howl through the corridors of power in the capital will blow on regardless, fuelled by more clickbait headlines and Swiss cheese bar-room logic.

Tana Umaga's name has been shouted louder than when he laced up the boots of late, but where is the basis for this theory that a new broom - and particularly one manufactured locally - will sweep the title up for inevitable display down a ticker-taped Lambton Quay?

It doesn't take much of a Moneyball-esque excavation for the wafer-thin reasoning to unravel. The statistics simply don't stack up.

In 18 years of Super Rugby the Hurricanes have made the final only once, although most people are still searching the tape for proof that anyone ran out on to the park that day.

With a multitude of All Blacks at their disposal they have missed the playoffs 12 times, so one could argue that the results of the last three years hardly jut out as unique phenomena.

When viewing Wellington's NPC/Air NZ/ ITM Cup results a dismal four victories since 1976 can be picked out, and of the regions the Hurricanes represent, only Manawatu has taken victory in the first division of any of these competitions. That was way back in 1980.

The foundations of a rugby empire are extremely hard to identify even with the most golden of tinted spectacles.

Such a desolate history of victory is what Hammett and Ieremia are faced with, but the pain is amplified by the reactionary force of critics to whom the word "loyal" pops up only when Dave Dobbyn gets another spin on the stereo.

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Their rabid crescendo proves the truth of the adage "the empty glass makes the most noise", particularly when the dropping of Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu and Andrew Hore is held up as evidence of Hammett's madness.

You only had to listen to Conrad Smith's analysis of his young side after beating the Blues in the last minute in 2012 to understand that the decisions to axe undeniable individual talent for the greater good of team cohesion was the right one.

That Weepu was the one to kick possession away for the Hurricanes to capitalise on that day was most poignant, as well as the sight of the Highlanders finishing second to last in 2013 with Hore and Nonu in their ranks.

You could argue that only the most masochistic would envy the coaching staff's current position, but a more hopeful view can prevail if the sabre rattlers allow a differing opinion of the situation to breathe.

Believe it or not, Hammett and company have provided the opportunity to build a platform for a future consistently on the right side of the win-loss ledger. The rotten floorboards of individualism and cliques needed to be ripped up, and that's exactly what The Hammer has done.

Whether or not he gets to personally reap the dividends, we will have to wait and see. It may be that his successor will be the beneficiary of his hard yards if the Hurricanes fail to get across the line again this year.

As the drama unfolds, fans should take a moment to ponder the impact of their derisive commentary. Players and staff are human, they read the news as well.

Perhaps it's time to change the mindset from yellow to gold and get behind everyone who is attempting to achieve what has never been done: the 'Canes to claim the title of Super Rugby champions. 


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