Thursday, 15 April 2010

I am a rugby history tragic.

Why else have I become the dumping ground for anyone in Southland wanting to get rid of old rugby books? Not that I’m complaining. My latest gem comes from the Corkery family in Invercargill and it’s titled “It’s Me, Tiger” – The Peter Jones Story.

In an age where one rugby test morphs into another and we seem to have an obsession with the Rugby World Cup every four years, to relive the greatest test series of all was a joy.

For the uninitiated, “Tiger” Jones was the powerhouse No.8 who scored the series-winning try at Eden Park against the 1956 Springboks. It was a rugby series like no other, before or since. A nation held its collective breath for two months while battle was waged against the great foe. Until then we’d never beaten South Africa in a test series, having suffered losses in 1921, 1928, 1937 and 1949.

Exhausted after this Herculean fourth test effort, Jones shocked a conservative and somewhat austere post-war 1950s nation when he addressed the 60,000-strong crowd and declared on national radio, “Well ladies and gentlemen, I hope never have to play as tough a game as today’s. I’m absolutely buggered”.

I think what I found interesting about Jones’ book was his life outside of rugby. He was a rugged Northland fisherman and unlike some of today’s troubled stars, he had a life outside rugby!

I can’t help but draw the fishing analogy with modern-day All Black No.8 Sione Lauaki who gets baited in a pub, bites like a big fish and gets taken in, hook, line and sinker.

* Unlike some, I haven’t given up on the Highlanders. Not just yet. Perhaps I will if they don’t get up over the Super 14 chumps, the Lions, tonight but I saw enough at Carisbrook on Saturday night against the Sharks to give me a glimmer of hope.

The Highlanders’ forward pack has always been competitive and in Adam Thomson they have an athlete of rare ability. Throw the work-horse Tom Donnelly back in there and you’ve got an eight capable of footing it with most in the Super 14.

Since the retirement of Jeff Wilson, the backs have been the Achilles heel. Maybe that’s about to change? Jimmy Cowan, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg are international class. Kenny Lynn has really stepped up to the mark at centre and the well-bred Michael Hobbs (a Hobbs across a Deans) could well follow his father Jock into the All Blacks. Robbie Robinson, too, is an All Black in waiting.

The question is whether the luckless coach Glen Moore can survive the waiting game?


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