In preparation for their Super Rugby final clash against the Lions on Saturday night, the Hurricanes were seen today at Rugby League Park in the company of local ambulance staff who were demonstrating to players how to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre.
“Obviously in previous years we haven’t been properly prepared for an entirely predictable closing or blockage of the windpipe,” said Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd, “So under my watch I’m not leaving any stone un-turned this year.”
Wellington Free Ambulance staff donned team jerseys during the three hour session to ensure that Hurricanes players wouldn’t hesitate in reacting to signs that any of their fellow teammates were experienced signs of restricted breathing on Saturday night.
“Keeping the esophagus free of blockages and allowing air to pass clearly through it is a hugely important focus for the team this week,” said captain Dane Coles.
“It was great having already gone through these drills with the All Blacks at the last World Cup, which meant I was able to devote more time to helping some of the younger guys in the side,” added Coles.
For his part assistant coach John Plumtree said that he’d learnt all too well in his previous stint coaching the Wellington Lions that such drills were vital preparation for a final.
“Unobstructed airways are key in a big match like this,” said Plumtree. “It’s vital that air remains circulating at all costs otherwise the team will not succeed.”
At the conclusion of training players were also seen being issued with new team jerseys with specially designed wider collars in a move team management said would help reduce the change of choking.
Long-suffering Hurricanes fans have allowed themselves the briefest moments of joy this weekend as their team somehow finished as minor premiers of the 2016 Super Rugby season, before they return to anticipating the inevitable choke that comes with the Hurricanes and post-season rugby.
After an odd Saturday evening where the Hurricanes thrashed a typically hapless Crusaders side, forcing Hurricanes fans into the uncomfortable and complicated situation of both cheering for the Highlanders, but not too much as to ensure they didn’t get a bonus point try during their clash for the Chiefs, they awoke from their post-match hangovers around 1pm to discover that the Hurricanes were on top of the table.
While they were pleasantly surprised with the result, having previously written off the 2016 campaign after the embarrassing loss to the Brumbies in round one, Hurricanes fans spoken to by Sportbox have calmed down from their weekend high and are now coming to terms with the unrelenting advance of fate.
“It’s great and all being top of the table and getting a home quarter final,” said often-quoted Hurricanes fan Callum Webb, “but it’s important to be realistic. Even if we win this weekend, and even the weekend following that, we’re just delaying the inevitable – we’re going to choke when it counts and we’ll still be the only New Zealand franchise without a title.
“After so many seasons, with so many disappointments, it’s just easier to consign this post-season to the dustbin rather than expending vital energy and warmth on getting excited about it.”
Mr Webb was clearly already moving on from the Hurricanes impending loss as he tried to move the conversation to new topics.
“Anyway, wouldn’t you rather talk about our amazing cafe per capita ratio? Or maybe some of the great craft breweries we have dotted around the city? Or what about that one, single calm and sunny day back in February that caused us all to post photos and claim that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day?”
Welsh referee Nigel Owens conceded last night that despite doing everything he could to help England win their critical encounter with the All Blacks on Saturday afternoon UK time, the All Blacks have proved the better team on the day.
“I tried everything I could to keep the English in the game,” a flustered Owens admitted at a bar in Cardiff yesterday evening, “I did everything I could to help England but they just weren’t able to capitalise on the advantages I gave them.
“I mean, I sent Dane Coles off when he clearly didn’t deserve, and when the TMO had told me it didn’t warrant a card, just to give the English a numerical advantage, then I decided to disallow a try I’d already awarded and hadn’t asked for a TMO ruling on, purely because the crowd asked me to. Hell, I even refused to dish out an equivalent yellow card to a English defender and awarded them an unjustified penalty try in order to keep them in the game and they still couldn’t beat the All Blacks.”
Owens, whose refereeing performance has come under intense scrutiny following the result, was unrepentant about his clear bias. “Look, someone other than the Springboks at home has to be able to beat these All Blacks, and I was just doing my part to try and make that a reality,” Owens said.
“Wayne Barnes led the way with showing the world how to referee a game in order to clearly disadvantage the All Blacks, and I was just following on from his inspired example. It’s just simply not fair that the All Blacks have so much talent right across the park, so it’s our job, as referees from the home unions, to ensure that our sides can play on a level pegging against those colonial upstarts, regardless of what the words of the rule book say,” Owens added.
When asked whether he planned to frame the signed England jersey given to him by captain Chris Robshaw before the game, in anticipation of the win, Owens declined to comment.
The Springboks have lodged a complaint with SANZAR in the wake of their defeat in the deciding test of the Rugby Championship over All Blacks manager Darren Shand filling in their team sheet in blue pen rather than black.
Springbok’s manager Ian Schwartz, who ran on the field to complain that he was unable to tell Dane Coles apart from Kevan Mealamu during the match, made the complaint directly to SANZAR CEO Greg Peters during the post-match presentations. Schwartz,who took to the stage and pushed Peters from the microphone, declared that “How can they call themselves the All Blacks when they used blue pen? Blue pen, that’s hardly all black is it?”
Schwartz then turned to Peters and started shouting “What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do? It’s cheating, clear and simple.” Schwartz went on to suggest that the result of the match be declared void and that the Rugby Championship decider be replayed in a sport where South Africa was more likely to win. Schwartz suggested that cricket, football or a “yachting series of 17 races” as possible alternatives.
All Black’s manager Darren Shand apologised for the confusion caused by his using blue pen on the team sheet, assuring people that “Wherever possible I do try and use a black pen, however as a result of human error I forgot to pack black pens in the team bag before. So I asked the Springboks if I could borrow one, but they only had green, red, blue and yellow pens, so I picked blue as the most neutral colour, and because it matches Beauden Barrett’s eyes.”
Schwartz’s post-match complaint speech was cut short when Springbok’s captain, Jean de Villiers tackled him from the stage.
French rugby referee Romain Poite red carded all of the All Blacks and Springbok’s players in the highly anticipated test at Eden Park over the weekend and declared himself the winner of the Rugby Championship test, announcing that it was in revenge for the French losing 8 – 7 in the 2011 World Cup final.
Poite, who incorrectly issued a yellow card against Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis during the first half of the match for a legitimate tackle that will see All Black’s play-maker Dan Carter out for six weeks, went on in the second half to progressively send off every player from each side at the match for increasingly irrelevant reasons. Stand-in All Black’s skipper Kieran Read was sent off in the 61st minute for “inappropriate facial hair,” while hooker Dane Coles was red carded as he was subbed off the field in the 52nd minute for “not wearing socks that come up to the knees”.
The Springboks weren’t spared from the ref’s card issuing either. Following du Plessis’ departure, Morne Steyn was red carded for “playing club rugby for the wrong French club side,” while Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was dispatched from the field for a “dangerous tackle back in 2012.”
Following the conclusion of the match, which finished early due to their no longer being any players on the field by the 77th minute, Poite refused to make any post-match interviews, instead trying to red card the film crew and Jeff Wilson off Eden Park. When that failed, Poite produced a note-pad and took down their names, vowing that IRB CEO Brett Gosper would deal to them later.
For his part, Brett Gosper has defended the actions of Poite, pointing out that, “anything that means my beloved Wallabies might salvage something resembling a result out of this Rugby Championship has to be a good thing.”