At first glance, Stephen Perofeta made a bit of a fool of himself this week.
Worse, the Blues fullback likely offended this week’s Super Rugby Aotearoa opponents the Highlanders.
It wasn’t that Perofeta’s comments were outrageous. More that they were a little naive and inclined to antagonise a Highlanders team potentially searching for motivation.
Perofeta talked of wake-up calls and of the Blues being in good stead and having learned from past mistakes. In everyday life that’s pretty mundane stuff, but in the heightened atmosphere of professional sport it sounds cocky. It suggests an infallible environment where everyone knows all the answers and all they have to do to win at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday is turn up.
I once had a boss who only wanted to hear from what he called “sexy’’ players. He wanted the big names – in this particular case Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Piri Weepu and occasionally Julian Savea – to be quoted all the time. He wasn’t interested in any players equivalent to Perofeta.
Don’t come back to the office with a John Schwalger interview or a few observations from Jeremy Thrush. Get Beauden Barrett or get lost.
Only nine times out of 10, the big-name players make very few big calls. They’re so seasoned and so occasionally jaundiced, that they rarely deviate from stating the obvious. It’s the Perofetas of the world – who are still a bit new to it all and eager to make a good impression – who often say the most interesting things.
You have to be grateful for that in this situation.
It would be slightly unfair to call this season of Super Rugby a procession, but it’s not far off. From the time the Crusaders went to Eden Park and did a number on the Blues, the outcome of the competition hasn’t been in huge doubt.
We can get down in the weeds and wonder about whether injuries or referee interpretations might halt the Crusaders’ march to yet another title, but we all acknowledge that they’re better than everyone else.
The Blues have a lot of talent and the Chiefs are becoming quite a handy side and the Highlanders and Hurricanes are doing their best with what they’ve got, but there’s really only one elite team on display here.
Without players such as Perofeta saying something for us to latch onto, there’s not always much reason for we fans to tune in each weekend.
This is where the Super Rugby teams have to help themselves.
It’s not good enough to send out an advisory stating Reed Prinsep and some coach or other will be available to speak on this day at this time. Either this is professional sport or it isn’t.
If it’s not, then teams can continue to dictate the tone of the coverage by deciding who speaks on the couple of days each week when content is available.
But if rugby does want to be professional and it does want to generate headlines and interest and it does want to get fans through the turnstiles, then it pretty much needs to be open slather all week. Media should be entitled to turn up every day and talk to whoever they like, as they do in the American sports that so many of our modern day rugby players revere.
It’s nice that Ardie Savea keeps us all updated and entertained via his social media accounts, but it would be even better if he appeared in front of the television cameras and microphones on a daily basis.
Far from making a fool of himself this week, Perofeta actually did Super Rugby a favour. He took a nothing game and potentially made it something by simply talking with conviction about the quality of his side.
Never give the opposition their team their team talk? Actually, in this instance, the competition needs a bit of that.
It needs a bit of needle and a bit of public back-and-forth between players. It needs something to engage fans and bring out a bit of tribalism and – dare we say it – even a bit of hate.
Sport is better for a bit of rivalry and our Super Rugby teams need to recognise that.
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