The NZ Super team Will Genia was 'always so wary of'
The 33-year-old retired number nine starred for the Reds and the Rebels in Super Rugby alongside winning his 110 caps for Australia as one of the all-time Aussie greats in the position. He was just the tenth Australian Test centurion and only the second-ever Australian scrumhalf after George Gregan to earn the honour.
The scrumhalf was the 78th Wallaby to captain Australia, after skippering the side against the United States of America at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and won over 130 Super Rugby caps, but the team he found most difficult to play wasn’t the mighty Crusaders.
“Even back when I was playing for the Reds and the Crusaders weren’t winning titles, they were still the gold standard. It was them and the Hurricanes who we were always so wary of,” said Genia, writing in his column in TheXV.rugby.
“The Hurricanes were sort of an outlier from the other Kiwi teams because they didn’t so much play to the same structure, they were loose and played with a lot of flair and X-factor. At the time there was Piri Weepu, Cory Jane, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith – I think you might have had a young Beauden Barrett.
“Whenever we did previews for them, it was always about keeping the game as structured as you possibly could because the moment it got loose, they were incredible. They would hurt you. They fed off it and grew in energy and confidence when the game became loose. I always found them really difficult to play against.”
That’s not to say the dominate force that was the Crusaders were in any way easy.
“And obviously the Crusaders, for the exact opposite reason. They’ve always been so incredibly structured, they’re very hard to break down. When you have the ball, you know you have to keep the ball for a large amount of time to be able to break down their defence because they’re just so well organised.”
According to Genia, New Zealand’s team were always a cut above, long before the current competition.
“Truth be told, we would always talk up the Australian derbies – when we would do media and things, you’d say the old cliches, “Yeah it’s going to be tough, there’s a lot of tradition in the rivalries, we’re expecting a fierce battle” – but while we knew we were going to be physically bashed up by our Australian brothers and it was always going to be competitive, we never went into those games on edge, feeling like it was a big game.
“But that’s how we felt when playing the Kiwi sides. To me, they were definitely the tougher games, just because of the standard and the level of rugby that they played at. They always played with a lot of pace and intensity in their game. It was always physically more taxing, physically more demanding. It was always a different week, a more focussed week whenever you were playing the Kiwi teams as opposed to the local derbies.”