You might think Chiefs vs Highlanders or Highlanders vs Crusaders or Crusaders vs Blues or Blues vs Chiefs is the best New Zealand grudge match, but you’d be wrong, writes Jamie Wall – it’s the Chiefs vs Hurricanes. Here’s why.
Hamilton isn’t exactly the first place on everyone’s minds when they think about a great Friday night out. The best way of describing the nightlife is like a time machine that takes you back to the year 2000, a land of silver neck chains and too much hair product.
But this Friday, all eyes will be on the bright lights of The Tron. Well, the ones lighting up Waikato Stadium anyway, as the Chiefs take on the Hurricanes in what’s easily the most anticipated clash of Super Rugby’s third round. And it’s not just because both teams have been in hot form over the first couple of weeks – these teams have History.
Friday’s match shapes as another classic chapter. The Canes have had a much easier introduction against the Rebels and Sunwolves – a couple of teams that pose little more threat than some balsa wood with boots on – while the Chiefs have seen off a threatening but blundering Highlanders side, then punctured the tyres of the Blues bandwagon by giving them a hiding last weekend.
But there’s more to this match-up than form and the all important New Zealand Conference points on offer. There’s plenty more reasons this particular derby has an extra edge.
The Taranaki War: Franchises moving location is one (mostly American) thing, but a location moving franchise is another. In 2013, Hurricanes union Taranaki decided they’d had enough of having of not getting enough home games and were wooed away to become part of the Chiefs instead. In all fairness, the Canes had got the best of what the region had to offer by that stage anyway.
Aaron Cruden: As a Chief? Brilliant. As a Hurricane… kind of frustrating. Even though Cruden made the All Blacks during his time in the capital, his form didn’t blossom into what Montpellier are willing to part with a million Euros a season for till he headed north. He’s not the only notable player to wear both jerseys – both Jonah Lomu and Tana Umaga went to the Chiefs from the Canes too, the latter’s being a little hard to take for Canes fans given there’s an entire section of Wellington’s Westpac Stadium named after him.
Ch(eat)iefs: Last year the last match the Hurricanes lost was in round nine, when the Chiefs pipped them 28-27 in Wellington. However, there’s more to this pulsating match than the scoreline and Seta Tamanivalu making everyone sit up and take notice. The Chiefs scrum was getting murdered in the last 10 minutes of the match, leading even the most novice rugby watcher in no doubt that it was only a matter of time before they’d concede a kickable scrum penalty and lose the game. Which made prop Siate Tokolahi’s injury and replacement Siegfried Fisiihoi’s sudden inability to play tighthead highly dubious to say the least. Play continued with depowered scrums. The Canes still should’ve won anyway, but winger Jason Woodward dropped a pass with the line open.
Snobbery: New Zealand may seem like a small place, but Wellington and Hamilton couldn’t be further apart in their own regional identity. The capital likes to think of itself on being a cultured, cosmopolitan city, while Hamilton takes a great deal of pride (ironic nickname aside) in its status as a dairy farming hub. All you need to do is scroll up to the first paragraph to get the general feeling that Wellingtonians have for Hamilton – no prizes for guessing which team I grew up supporting.
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