CHRIS RATTUE, writing in the New Zealand Herald, says the country's rugby aura has been diminished by their poor start to Super Rugby.
'The rest of world rugby can rejoice,' he began. 'New Zealand aren't the invincible beast they appeared in 2013. Far from it. Our Super Rugby teams have been rubbish, by and large, so far. Even the wonderful Kieran Read is playing like a plonker. The New Zealand teams have come roaring out the gate like a drunk exiting a nightclub at 3am.'
Among the Kiwi franchises, only the Chiefs have a chance of winning Super Rugby this year, according to Rattue.
'The Blues are a swirl of hype and hope who were ticking along nicely according to the salivating PR merchants desperate to paint John Kirwan as a mastermind … The Crusaders are goners as title contenders. They haven't got a hope with a backline that looks as if it was constructed in the 1970s. The Hurricanes and Highlanders never had a hope anyway. The Hurricanes are worse than imagined.
'Which leaves the Chiefs. Style and substance do come together in the world of Dave Rennie, Wayne Smith, Liam Messam and co. In Aaron Cruden the Chiefs have something the rest of the rugby world doesn't – an electric playmaker at No 10. First five-eighths [flyhalf] is one place where New Zealand have long held significant and important advantages.'
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