'It's a constant thing for us': Why the Hurricanes aren't worried about a little bit of niggle
Thrush will come up against his former side this evening when the Force travel to Napier to take on the Hurricanes and the 11-test All Black was adamant ahead of playing the Highlanders last weekend that he’s looking forward to causing some angst and frustration amongst his fellow countrymen.
“Last week [in the opening round of the competition against the Chiefs] I did find it pretty fun to try to ruffle a few feathers of Kiwi boys back home,” Thrush said.
“All I’ve got left in me really now is to be a bit niggly and piss a few people off. I’m going to try to do a bit more of that on the weekend.”
While getting under the opposition’s skin is hardly a new tactic in the game of rugby, Hurricanes coach Jason Holland may have paid close attention to Thrush’s comments, given that his side were dished out the most sin-binnings in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
The Hurricanes had eight players yellow-carded throughout the tournament – twice as many as the next worst team – and Thrush will undoubtedly be trying to earn his team a one-man advantage with a little bit of niggle throughout this evening’s match.
Holland, however, has said that the Hurricanes haven’t paid too much notice of their former player’s comments.
“We’re always working on our cog [cognitive] stuff, around how we make sure we’re engaged in the moment,” he said following the naming of the Hurricanes squad to take on the force.
“Nothing specific to this week or nothing specific to any individual but it’s a constant thing for us around the last month or six weeks, around making sure that we understand what’s important and we don’t get caught up in any rubbish.”
While the multiple cardings don’t make for good reading, the Hurricanes have managed to keep their penalty count down low this year, tying with the Highlanders for fewest penalties conceded during Super Rugby Aotearoa of the five Kiwi teams.
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That’s a major contrast to 2020, Holland’s first year in charge, when the Hurricanes were the worst offenders.
While the Hurricanes won’t necessarily be particularly wary of being wound up by Thrush, that doesn’t mean they’re not conscious of how much of a presence he can be on the park.
“There’s nothing flashy around what [the Western Force] do but they’re really really good at the little things,” Holland acknowledged.
“They’ve got awesome lineout D, Thrushy’s going pretty well there. And they’ve got some experienced old heads there that will make sure they understand what big moments are like.
“They bring a hell of a lot of physicality and intent with what they do so I think that’s what’s made them really competitive over the least few weeks. They were pretty unlucky to not beat the Chiefs and then to stop the Landers getting a bonus point was pretty good.
“We’re under no illusions around what we’ve got this week; they’re coming over here and there’s a couple of boys, obviously Thrushy’s an ex-Hurricanes, and boys will be well motivated to have a good crack at us.”
Coincidentally, All Blacks hooker Dane Coles – who was last year rated as the ‘biggest grub’ in NZ Rugby by some of his peers – is being rested for this weekend after shouldering a heavy workload in recent times.
Instead, human wrecking ball Asafo Aumua will run out wearing the No 2 jersey.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT from McLean Park in Napier.
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