Super Rugby Aotearoa starts tonight

Super rugby resumes this weekend after a suspension of the full competition due to the Covid-19 lockdown, but in a revamped local only competition as Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Tonight the Highlanders play the Chiefs in Dunedin. It is cold but dry here outside as well as under the roof. – I decided to go to the stadium to watch, a large crowd is expected.

It is the first rugby game in the world to be played in front of a crowd and broadcast since the Covid lockdown, and one of the few sports events taking place.

Tomorrow the Blues play the Hurricanes. The Crusaders have a bye first up.

Each team will play all other teams twice. It will be a tough competition, especially for the Highlanders who struggled at the start of the season before it was stopped.

They will be operating under some experimental rules.

Any drawn games will go to golden point extra time. Draws tend to be flat finishes.

Anyone red carded can’t come back on to the field during the game but can be replaced after 20 minutes. This is to try too reduce the unevenness of playing for a lot of the game with a player short.

And the change that interests me the most is an attempt to clean up the breakdown and make them more fair and even contests.

Breakdown interpretation expected to speed game up

Announced earlier this week among other innovations like golden point time and the ability to replace a red-carded player after 20 minutes, the existing breakdown laws will be applied stricter to create faster attacking ball and a fairer contest said New Zealand Rugby National Referee Manager Bryce Lawrence.

“Fans enjoy Investec Super Rugby because it’s a fantastic spectacle and our referees like to allow the game to flow. We’re confident we’ll see a contest that is faster, fairer, safer and easier to understand. We’re not changing the laws of the game, we’re being stricter about how we referee them,” Lawrence said.

“It’s just about learning to roll away east to west, rather than north to south,” Gareth Evans responded when asked about how he is dealing with the stricter application of the breakdown laws for the competition kicking off on Saturday June 13.

“A lot of turnovers these days aren’t actually from the person making the tackle it is from the next arriving player,” Evans said. “The tackler now pretty much just has to roll out and go side to side and can’t slow the ball down. If you are the jackler you only have one crack at the ball now.”

“It sort of slowed the game down a bit previously so it’s going to be different but I guess you’re going to have to be more precise on when you pick and choose. The referee is not focusing on who is holding onto the ball now, they are focusing on who is rolling away or who is not rolling away so they can award the penalty or not,” Evans said.

I think this is an overdue change. What has been happening is that the tackled player has been positioning themselves in front of the ball to protect it, often crabbing forward, and often keeping their hand on the ball which was illegal – the law has long said a tackled player must play the ball immediately and then can’t play it again.

I hope the referees are strict on this. The next players arriving at the tackle will be critical in securing the ball.

referees say they will also police the offside line much more strictly. Also overdue, it had become too easy to shut down attacking rugby.

Game details, news and teams:

It will be broadcast and streamed around the world:

Atlantic and Pacific hurricane tracks

Hurricane Lorenzo currently in the mid Atlantic is cited as the most intense hurricane east of 45 degrees West longitude in the historical record. It’s heading north and only The Azores is at possible risk, depending on how it tracks and how much energy it retains.

This is detailed in Category 4 Hurricane Lorenzo is the Most Intense Hurricane So Far East in the Atlantic Ocean on Record, but included in that report is a fascinating map of category 4 or greater hurricanes in the Atlantic recorded since 1950.

Nearly all hurricanes begin north of the equator. Some of them come from a relatively small area west of Africa, with many beginning in a narrow band several hundred kilometres north of the equator, heading west and often veering north.


Tracks of all Atlantic Basin Category 4 or stronger hurricanes from 1950 through 2017. Segments during which each hurricane was Category 4 or 5 is shown by the pink and purple line segments, respectively. The position of Lorenzo when it first reached Category 4 status is denoted by the dot and arrow. The location of Julia when it was a Category 4 hurricane in 2010 is also highlighted. (Note: 2018 tracks were unavailable in the online database as of the time of this article.)


Even in the heart of hurricane season, tropical waves moving off the coast of western Africa usually take some time to mushroom into intense hurricanes.

This is often due to intrusions of dry air, known as Saharan air layers, moving off Africa’s Sahara Desert. Fledgling tropical disturbances need warm, moist air to intensify, so battling these intrusions can prevent intensification or even spell doom in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

In Lorenzo’s case, that wasn’t a big problem.

A lack of shearing winds, typically warm ocean water and moist air allowed Lorenzo to rapidly intensify so far east.

Wikipedia shows more on this in Atlantic Hurricane:

File:Atlantic hurricane tracks.jpg

Tracks of North Atlantic tropical cyclones (1851–2012)

Most storms form in warm waters several hundred miles north of the equator near the Intertropical convergence zone from tropical waves. The Coriolis force is usually too weak to initiate sufficient rotation near the equator.

Storms frequently form in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the tropical Atlantic Ocean as far east as the Cape Verde Islands, the origin of strong and long-lasting Cape Verde-type hurricanes. Systems may also strengthen over the Gulf Stream off the coast of the eastern United States, wherever water temperatures exceed 26.5 °C (79.7 °F).

Steering factors

Tropical cyclones are steered by the surrounding flow throughout the depth of the troposphere (the atmosphere from the surface to about eight miles (12 km) high)…Specifically, air flow around high pressure systems and toward low pressure areas influences hurricane tracks.

In the tropical latitudes, tropical storms and hurricanes generally move westward with a slight tendency toward the north, under the influence of the subtropical ridge, a high pressure system that usually extends east-west across the subtropics.

South of the subtropical ridge, surface easterly winds (blowing from east to west) prevail. If the subtropical ridge is weakened by an upper trough, a tropical cyclone may turn poleward and then recurve, or curve back toward the northeast into the main belt of the Westerlies. Poleward (north) of the subtropical ridge, westerly winds prevail and generally steer tropical cyclones that reach northern latitudes toward the east.

Eastern Pacific hurricanes show similar patterns.

File:Pacific hurricane tracks 1980-2005.jpg

Tracks of East Pacific tropical cyclones (1980–2005)

Most of these head out into uninhabited parts of the Pacific.

The North west Pacific has a lot of typhoon activity.

File:Pacific typhoon tracks 1980-2005.jpg

Tracks of all tropical cyclones in the northwestern Pacific Ocean between 1980 and 2005.
The vertical line to the right is the International Date Line.

Closer to home we are sometimes affected by South Pacific tropical cyclones.

Within the Southern Hemisphere there are officially three areas where tropical cyclones develop on a regular basis, these areas are the South-West Indian Ocean between Africa and 90°E, the Australian region between 90°E and 160°E and the South Pacific basin between 160°E and 120°W.

Within the basin, most tropical cyclones have their origins within the South Pacific Convergence Zone or within the Northern Australian monsoon trough, both of which form an extensive area of cloudiness and are dominant features of the season.

The ancient mariners of the South Seas who roamed the tropical Pacific before the arrival of the Europeans, knew of and feared the hurricanes of the South Pacific.

They were keen and accurate observers of nature with traditional myths and legends, reflecting their knowledge of these systems.

There are fewer and much more scattered tracks in our part of the Pacific.

Tracks of all tropical cyclones in the southwestern Pacific Ocean between 1980 and 2005

You can see the inactive equatorial band between the north and south Pacific tracking maps.

You can see north of Australia and north and south Indian ocean tracks here (this post has already become a lot longer than intended): Tropical cyclone basins

Heat in the ocean waters is a major factor in hurricanes. If as most science suggests our oceans have been absorbing an increasing amount of heat then there is a risk of more hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones, and they are at risk of being more intense.

Super final – Hurricanes v Lions

The Hurricanes play the Lions in the Super final tonight. Both teams deserve to be there, having played impressively in the quarter finals and semi finals.

As a neutral-ish observer it will be a fascinating game, with both teams very good in both defence and on attack from anywhere on the field.

The weather may play a part. It is currently 5.1 degrees and wet in Wellington with a strong south easterly averaging 43 km/h gusting to 67 km/h and the forecast is for more wind and ‘occasional showers’.

So a slight advantage to the Hurricanes perhaps, at home and in familiar weather conditions.

Dane Coles is expected to play.

Wet and windy but not that many mistakes being made.

One miracle catch by Cory Jane of a low kick resulting in a try was the difference in a tight first half. Hurricanes 10, Lions 3.

A dour game based on defence. Too many mistakes by the Lions, a couple of them costly with a try scored off a fluffed lineout.

Hurricanes too good and deserved winners, 20-3. When did they last concede a try?

Congratulations Hurricanes.


Super semi finals

Tonight the Hurricanes play the Chiefs in the first Super Rugby semi final. I’m not going to pick this either way, I’ll just enjoy the game.

Except that If the Chiefs win tonight  and the Highlanders manage to beat the Lions  in Johannesburg in the middle of the night (that will be tough) that would mean a Dunedin final which would be great.

Hurricanes won 25 – 9, just too good, especially Beauden Barrett who was instrumental in giving them a 15-6 lead at half time lead, and the Chiefs just weren’t up to it.

Lions just too good for the Highlanders, they are very good at scoring tries and got too many of them for the Highlanders to get close. The final score was 42-30 but late catch up points made it look a bit better than the walloping that it was.

So the final will be Hurricanes versus Lions in Wellington next week. Both teams have earned their final spots.



The Hurricanes had a great Super 15 season, but they weren’t quite great enough when it really mattered, in the final, and that matters.

The Highlanders had a very good season and played a great final finishing off the best, beating the two most recent champions through the play offs and beating the best overall team in the final.  so they are worthy champions.


Congratulations to a job well done. A warm glow of pride spread over the south last night, and it will remain in place today when the team returns to Dunedin.

The Hurricanes tried repeating their usual and it didn’t quite work for them in a few ways. They missed their first three kicks at goal, they didn’t succeed with the devastating breaks they are renowned and feared for, and they couldn’t quite finish off a frenetic game.

The Highlanders weren’t perfect either, especially during a wobbly period mid second half when the Hurricanes closed the gap to four points.

But they dug in and held on, finishing strongly enough to deny the Hurricanes.

There was an air of ‘we deserve this’ about the Hurricanes – they deserved to win because they had been clearly the top team so far, they deserved to win because of Jerry Collins, they deserved to win because it was the final match for stalwarts like Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.

But thinking you might deserve something is not always enough.

The Highlanders, a team of mostly unknowns, played like a team, a team determined to do whatever they could to win.

They had built up some very good skills and a wide range of tactics through the season.

And when it mattered they had the guts, the fitness, the nous and the determination to get over the final line first.

So they are deserving winners.


And here in the south we will celebrate probably the best and most satisfying southern team win I’ve experienced for quite some time. We’ve got a year to feel like champions.

Planet Rugby has the details: Highlanders stun ‘Canes in thriller

A report with some video: Highlanders upset Hurricanes to claim first Super Rugby title in Wellington
(I’m sure some Hurricanes players and supporters are upset but the result was hardly a shock if you had seen what the Highlanders had proven capable of).

The Highlanders had knocked off the Chiefs in Dunedin, then bamboozled the Waratahs in Sydney before jetting into Wellington, but few thought they could beat the regular season champions on their home patch. However, within the Highlanders’ camp there was no doubt according to co-captain Ben Smith.

“We knew from the start we had something special and along the way other people started to believe too. We talk about brotherhood and being good mates and you’ve seen that over the past few weeks,” he said.

And they showed that in the final last night.

Hurricanes or Highlanders?

Most of the talk and speculation is over. Tonight the Super 15 will be decided on the field at the Cake Tin.

The Hurricanes are logical favourites.

The Highlanders will probably be sentimental favourites outside of the Wellington region.

Of course I’m hoping for a Highlanders win but don’t have any expectations other than for an intriguing contest.

The score will start at 0-0 at 7.35 pm. Then it’s up to the two teams on the night.

Hurricanes and Highlanders

The Hurricanes were clear leaders on the Super 15 table, and they were clear winners in their semi-final against the Brumbies last night winning 29-9. Their forwards are playing very well and their backs often look dangerous. Despite missing out through mistakes a number of times they scored often enough to shut the Brumbies out.

So the Hurricanes will deservedly host the final in Wellington next week.

The Highlanders were second on points on the table, just one bonus point ahead of the Waratahs. They went to Sydney to play an away semifinal against the defending champions due to the country ranking system.

Most of the statistics were against the Highlanders. They have rarely won in Sydney and haven’t made the final since 1999 (when they lost to the Crusaders).

But last night the Highlanders out fought and out thought the Waratahs, winning 35-17.

As a Highlander fan it would have been sort of ok for the Hurricanes to have lost so we would host the final in Dunedin but the Hurricanes earned the home game.

So next week it will be the Hurricanes versus the Highlanders in Wellington, and all New Zealand final. They can both be high tempo exciting attacking teams but finals can be different.

It will be interesting to see how it goes. May the best team win, and hopefully it will be the Highlanders!