Resurgent Canterbury bury memory of horror loss to Wellington and brace for Ranfurly Shield defence
If Glenn Delaney stays true to his word, he won't turn his carpet into a threadbare ruin ahead of Waikato's Ranfurly Shield revenge mission to Christchurch.
Last year Canterbury grabbed the shield off Waikato in Hamilton, beating them 29-23 in Hamilton, and now they will be required to defend the trophy against the same foe at AMI Stadium next Saturday night.
Given Canterbury beat North Harbour 41-28 in their Mitre 10 Cup match in Albany at the weekend, they are tipped to grab struggling Waikato, who have only won two games, roughly by the collar and shove them towards the exit door.
But then you let your mind drift back to that nightmare 60-14 loss to Wellington a week prior. That's when the doubts start to creep in.
The win over Harbour might have earned Canterbury back some self-respect, but it will still take a while to forget that shocker in the capital.
And that is why professional sports coaches have to be a special breed. They must learn to cope with terrible losses, cranky players, fickle fans, and if things don't go well, the prospect of getting sacked by a demanding board. Depending how deep you want to dig, the list of things to correct can seem endless. As Canterbury boss Delaney himself said: "You are never happy as a coach."
His job, he maintained, was to look at things objectively and sort out any problems can be fixed; and he certainly had a few of those to deal with after that 46-point pummelling by Wellington.
But getting emotional helps no-one, insists Delaney.
Which surely means that if he does his homework properly ahead of the shield defence he won't be caught repeatedly blazing a trail around his living room carpet in the wee hours, worrying about 'what ifs' and the like.
"You have to take as much emotion out of the game as you can," Delaney maintains. "Because we are always emotionally attached to it; the plays, the results, all those things come into it.
"But to do this really effectively you have got to pull yourself away from that and go what are the critical things we need to deliver?"
When his team trailed Harbour 21-10 at QBE Stadium, Delaney, if he was the temperamental type, could have looked for a cup of tea to decorate the changing shed wall with.
Instead he chose the 'keep calm, and carry on' strategy - with a few minor tweaks. Included in the instructions was the requirement to stem the turnovers, and be better aligned in defence.
"They were all correctable. The intent to play there was there, and we were creating opportunities. Once our accuracy improved in that second half we looked like a pretty good team."
Within five minutes of the re-start, Canterbury had jumped into the lead through tries to halfback Mitchell Drummond and centre Tim Bateman. For Harbour it was the beginning of the end: afterwards Delaney had a beer with Harbour coach Tom Coventry, the pair having worked together at the London Irish club in England.
With regular season games to play against Waikato, Taranaki and Auckland, Canterbury appear destined to make the semifinals on October 20-21. Harbour, placed third, are also in the running.
Delaney was having none of it: "I don't take that on board, because a week ago that is not what people were saying (following the loss to Wellington). So you can't have that boom-bust type of summation."