After a near three-month absence, the resumption of compelling live action was food for the rugby lovers’ soul this weekend , writes CRAIG LEWIS.
How good was that?
After the abrupt halt of Vodacom Super Rugby back in mid-March, it’s been a painful waiting game to see when competition would finally be able to resume.
In New Zealand, they have led the way. A united, concerted effort in their battle against Covid-19 has been a remarkable success story in that part of the world, and for their rugby-mad public the reward has been a historic return to live sport in front of packed crowds.
At Eden Park in particular, the tens of thousands who turned up to witness a stunning win for the impressive Blues showcased just how much rugby has been missed.
Australia will follow next with their domestic competition kicking off in July, while South African rugby hope to be able to get something going in August (albeit behind closed doors).
Until then, all eyes will remain on New Zealand, and that’s not a bad thing by any means.
The Highlanders and Chiefs kicked things off with an absolute thriller on Saturday, while the Blues looked rejuvenated rather than rusty as they utterly overpowered the Hurricanes.
Yes, there are clearly some teething problems around the new rule enforcements from referees – especially at the breakdown – but I’m not sure anyone will care too much at this point.
It isn’t all working just yet (a whopping 58 penalties were racked up across the first two games), but ultimately the officials are seeking to create a cleaner breakdown that aids continuity, while a stricter enforcement of the offside line should ultimately benefit the attacking team.
These new rulings will come increasingly into the spotlight in the weeks to come, but for now let’s just celebrate the return of live rugby.
As a colleague pointed out on social media, it was New Zealand’s two compelling clashes in front of full stadiums that provided a sense of normality and renewed a sense of hope in times of the coronavirus. Such is the power of sport!
On show, there were some tasty tries, delicious offloads and crunching tackles, as well as a sweet drop goal or two as the Kiwi teams dished up a meal that was truly food for the rugby lovers’ soul.
It’s reignited a hunger for the game, and I – for one – was left salivating for more!