Just like at their Taranaki farm around the turn of the century, do not be surprised to see a heated game of “run it straight” between two brothers in Wellington tonight.
Although it is the third match-up between the sides this year — the Blues winning the first two — it will be the first time the brothers take the same pitch in different Super Rugby strips.
Both start at fullback in a game that could see the Hurricanes, despite dropping their first two matches of Super Rugby Aotearoa, leapfrog the Blues into second on the ladder with a sizeable win.
Given the duo were teammates for three years and continually contend for starting roles in the All Blacks, any occasion where they face-off, let alone for the first time in professional rugby, is mouthwatering.
But their form has seemingly travelled down different paths, with Jordie emerging as an essential piece in the Hurricanes side, while Beauden has been relatively quiet in his performances for the Blues.
Hurricanes coach Jason Holland put the younger of the Barretts at the top of his pecking order.
“In my eyes, he’s the best [fullback] in the country, but he’s got to work hard to make sure he stays there and perform week in, week out,” he said.
Discussing Jordie’s performance against the Highlanders last weekend, Holland noted there were “a couple of little sloppy bits there, and Jordie’s come to me and talked around things that aren’t to his absolute standard around a couple of turnovers. But for me, he’s streets ahead of everyone else at 15.”
It is a bold opinion when put up against Beauden’s two World Rugby Player of the Year awards, and status as one of the greatest All Blacks.
Co-captain Dane Coles agrees with his coach “out of bias” but is not buying into the idea Beauden is out of form.
“He’s been a massive part of their success, being back. Just controlling the game, you can see his experience is really standing out.”
Coles knows the magnitude of the occasion with Beauden returning to the Cake Tin in a Super Rugby clash for the first time since June 2019. But he believes Jordie is up for the challenge, and described him as a “pretty calm person”.
Holland expressed relief his former star will not be playing at first-receiver tonight.
“He’s obviously not there from set piece — which probably gives us some peace of mind if he’s not a threat around the 10 channel.”
When the two played at Eden Park in the first week of Super Rugby Aotearoa, Coles scored a memorable try where he barged his way through Beauden to score in the corner. It was followed up by some celebrations that the Hurricanes forcefully included their old teammate in.
The All Blacks hooker is keen to grab another try in a similar fashion.
“It’d be nice if I get down the channel again and see my old mate,” he said. “Hopefully there’s a few boos for him when he gets out.”
The Blues come off an unusual feeling — defeat, suffering their first in eight games against the Crusaders last weekend. They will also be without the in-form Hoskins Sotutu and veteran James Parsons, as well as rising winger Caleb Clarke.
By contrast, the Hurricanes welcome back Coles and Reed Prinsep from injury, and are experiencing a rise in form with a chance to secure their third consecutive win.
Super Rugby Aotearoa per-game averages
Beauden Barrett (4 games)
41m, 8 carries, 2 defenders beaten, 1 linebreak, 14 kicks, 2 points, 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 turnovers conceded, 1 penalty conceded.
Jordie Barrett (2 games)
30m, 13 carries, 4 defenders beaten, 2 linebreaks, 2 try assists, 12 kicks, 6 points, 5 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 5 turnovers conceded, 1 penalty conceded.
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