'Soft' Aussies and the Beast: 5 Super Rugby talking points

    2019-04-04 06:51

    Wellington - Five talking points ahead of this weekend's Round 8 Super Rugby matches.

    Aussie forwards 'soft'

    Reds front-rower JP Smith has urged his team-mates to toughen up ahead of a series of games against opposition from his native South Africa, starting with the Stormers on Friday.

    Smith, who used to play for Western Province, said the general perception of Australian forwards in South Africa was that they were "soft".

    "That's my honest opinion, that's what South African (forwards think) because they try and bully us," he said.

    "If you take that aspect away from them, they don't know what to do."

    The Reds are looking to bounce back after a 32-13 home thumping by the Rebels last weekend, while the Stormers have lost the first two legs of their four-match Australasian tour, to the Hurricanes and Blues.

    "I think they're going to target us this weekend," said Smith.

    'Effort and intensity'

    Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has made clear to his team that they've been lacking "effort and intensity" and he wants a reaction on Saturday against the Crusaders.

    His blunt assessment followed their heavy defeat to the Reds a fortnight ago. They had a bye last weekend.

    "They ran harder and tackled harder than us and we got what we deserved, so we're looking to turn that around," he said.

    "It's pretty crystal-clear to this group that effort's an expectation week-in, week-out, day-in, day-out, so I think we'll get a reaction."

    They will need something special against the Crusaders in Christchurch, with their task made that much harder by several Wallabies set to be rested under their rotation policy in a World Cup year.

    "Off the back of a bye week and a performance we weren't all that pleased with the previous week, it's an opportunity for us to bounce back," said McKellar.

    Swiss Army man

    There are utility backs, then there's Jordie Barrett, who is so versatile he's beginning to resemble the Hurricanes' version of a Swiss Army knife.

    All Black Barrett will start at outside centre against Highlanders this weekend after also playing at fullback, wing and inside centre this season.

    Hurricanes coach John Plumtree praised Barrett's willingness to slot in where required, saying he did not want to constantly shift the 22-year-old around but injuries had forced his hand.

    "I'm not big on moving players around, I'd like him to settle in his favourite position, but right now, because of injuries, we've had to do this," he said. "He's just a really good team man."

    The making of Aaron Smith

    Ahead of the Highlanders-Hurricanes clash, Aaron Smith has recalled how receiving the cold shoulder from the Wellington team in 2011 helped mould him into one of the world's top scrumhalves.

    Smith, who now has 82 Test caps and a World Cup to his name, was a rising star with domestic club Manawatu at the time and the Hurricanes, who had first refusal on his services, decided he was not yet ready for Super Rugby.

    The Highlanders swooped but Smith, who this week signed a two-year contract extension with the All Blacks and Highlanders, said he bore no grudges and the Hurricanes were right to turn down the cocky youngster.

    "I wish I could go back and tell that fella to start running and stop eating crap, and stop drinking heaps of (beer) and just knuckle down," Smith said.

    "But that's sort of what I had to learn, the Hurricanes were right... I needed to take a good look in the mirror."

    Milestones for 'Beast', Peyper

    Sharks loosehead prop Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira and South African referee Jaco Peyper will reach Super Rugby milestones this weekend.

    Mtawarira makes a record 157th appearance by a South African when he plays against the Lions in Johannesburg Friday, overtaking retired Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss.

    "Victory over the Lions comes before any personal milestones," stressed Mtawarira.

    "We played really well against the Bulls last weekend but lost."

    Peyper handles the Crusaders against Brumbies on Saturday to becomes only the fourth referee after Steve Walsh, Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert to officiate 100 matches.

    "I wish my dad was still alive to see this day as he would have been so proud," said the 39-year-old Bloemfontein lawyer.

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    Friday, 26 April 2019
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