Saturday night’s North vs South clash, the first since 2012, has brought anticipation and intrigue around what will unfold when New Zealand’s best players go head-to-head.
Speaking on this week’s Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Blues duo Tony Lamborn and James Parsons joined Crusader Bryn Hall to discuss how intense they think the clash will be, and whether there will be fireworks despite most of the players being teammates at their Super Rugby franchises.
“I’m hearing a bit of razzle, they are just going to throw the kitchen sink,” Lamborn said of what he had heard from the South Island squad.
A highlight of the week’s lead-up was a back-and-forth in the media between Anton Lienert-Brown and his brother Dan, who have been placed on opposite teams despite growing up together in the South Island. Lamborn scored the first round to Dan over the supposed tackle discussed by the two in the media from the Chiefs-Highlanders game in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“I did see the clip with the Lienert-Brown boys, I actually thought Daniel got the better of him there. Anton tries to put a shot on, but his brother is bigger and stronger mate. You are going nowhere,” opined Lamborn.
“I would say, knowing Anton [Lienert-Brown], he’s going to be searching for him,” predicted Blues hooker Parsons.
“There seems to be a good brotherly rivalry there but also not just between them, there has been some good banter by the coaches, the players, it does lead into quite a fierce rivalry I suppose.
“It is all tongue and cheek Monday to Thursday, but I think around Friday-Saturday it will be all business and it will be all on.”
Hall explained that playing against your club teammates adds a little bit extra, as you never want to have to deal with your teammates having one over you. The ramifications of losing could be held over you for up to a year.
“I saw Gus [North Island prop Angus Ta’avao] go into the South changing room on All Blacks TV, and getting a bit of chirp there but those competitors want to get the better of it, especially when you come up against teammates that are in different camps, any chance to get a little win in contact or cheap shot, or the W, it holds well over the next year.
“I just think it’s going to be an epic game of footy to watch,” Blues flanker Lamborn said.
A number of young players have the opportunity to impress the All Black selectors, including Bryn Hall’s Crusader teammates Will Jordan and Tom Christie who he said were excited for the challenge ahead.
“Will Jordan’s performances probably speak for themselves, and warrant, potentially an All Blacks selection, but Tom Christie has also done extremely well to get the selection but probably a little bit down the pecking order,” said Parsons.
“It’s a massive opportunity to show his wares, in terms of his prep during the week and then playing.”
Hall predicted that Tom Christie would be one who will thrive inside the All Black-like environment.
“He’s a hard worker, he’s got leadership capabilities and obviously captained New Zealand under-20s so just his general professionalism for a young man is pretty impressive. I think for him, it was time in the saddle, playing big minutes and finding out a few things to have a good understanding of what it takes at Super Rugby level.
“He’s a guy that is going to probably flourish in that environment.”
The opportunity to impress selectors can lead to younger players trying to do too much, and Lamborn warned against trying to overplay the game. When asked about who could potentially fall into that trap, he highlighted two contenders for the All Blacks 15 jersey.
“That Will Jordan, he’s pretty sharp. If he gets a crack I think he could be one that could overplay his hand a little bit,” he said.
“I think Damian McKenzie has a lot to prove as well. He’s been out of that mix now for a long time and he’s got a jersey to play for. He could overplay, try too hard and try do things himself. I don’t see the selectors enjoying that too much.
“Other than that, it’s a good opportunity for the boys to put their hand up and give it a good crack.”
Another explosive area for competition is the loose forwards, where the North Island side held an enormous amount of depth.
“I’m looking forward to the loose forward trio of the North. There is just a lot of good guys in that squad. They are pretty stacked, that’s one selection that I’m looking forward to seeing. A lot of those Blues boys, Akira and Hoskins are deserving,” said Hall.
“You got Boshier in there, you got Ardie, it’s going to be hard-fought to get a spot,” added Parsons.
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