With just three rounds left in the regular season, and with no guarantees on final placings, the time has come for the latest installment in our weekly ITM Cup Power Rankings.
From corporatised sea life to coaching rodents, it was another week that gave plenty and – in true Provincial fashion – expected nothing in return.
While the Rugby World Cup has been getting all the headlines, we at The Spinoff Sports will never forget our roots. The ITM Cup runneth over!
1. The Ranfurly Shield, a piece of wood
I mean, come on. Does anything come close to this polished hunk of lumber in terms of great trophies in the rugby world? You may be able to fill the Bledisloe Cup with a pellet-worth of lager, but can you have sex on it? No. No you can’t. The Ranfurly Shield stands alone as the most tagged, cracked, abused, dented, screwed-upon, wonderfully resonant symbol of rugby glory on the planet, and last week it provided us with another clash – Magpies v Steamers – worthy of its place in the pantheon of sporting prizes. Just remember rule number one: don’t kiss the log o’ wood.
2. Akira Ioane, Auckland
If this week’s power rankings seem a little lopsided in favour of Auckland, well, so be it. Ioane is an irrestible selection this week, for the fact he has carried the ball more than any other player in the competition and for the fact he has clocked up a staggering 43 defender beats in the last six weeks. Put it this way, that is more than anyone else and almost twice as many as the next best forward, Vaea Fifita. Speaking of Vaea Fifita, it’s about time iconic Wellington mexican restaurant La Boca Loca named a dish after big Vaea. We’ll call it the Vaea Fifita Fire Fajita.
No, not the sweet deep fried sugar-coated doughy confection kinda donut but the sour, pull your pants down harsh reality completely embarrassing kind that graced the scoreboard at Yarrow’s Stadium on Friday night next to the name “Waikato”. How did it come to this? One of the country’s proudest provinces, freshly stocked with Super Rugby project players, downtrowed in the battle of the bovines. And then a four hour bus ride back to the City of the Future. Things don’t get much worse than that. Oh, wait a minute. Yes they do – that was the first time since 1985 Waikato had been held scoreless in a championship match.
4. Otago, like, the whole damn team
Harder to shake than a stage six clinger. Just ask Wellington. About Otago, that is. Not clingers.
5. George Moala, Auckland
Moala was the best of the bunch for the Blues in Super Rugby and he has parlayed his pro form into the ITM Cup for Auckland. It is hard not to think Moala is anything else but the most important cog in the Auckland backline machine. He has carried the ball more than any other player bar Akira Ioane, has made the most offloads in the competition and has scored the most tries. Moala doesn’t get talked about as a potential RWC injury replacement, but he should.
6. Tim Boys’ Hair, Southland Stags
For the second straight week, Tim Boys’ exceptional hair makes the power rankings. What more can we say about the top tackler’s lid? Is that a more defined and stylised wave this week? Should he perhaps grow the sideburns for a more complete ’70s disco vibe? How does he get that crusty mane clean after a game? Who cares! While the rest of the competition goes beard–crazy, Boys is running a next level ‘do. And we appreciate that.
7. Rat Feeney, Auckland Coach
One of just a handful of men to have played for North Harbour and come out the other side with their dignity intact, Paul ‘Rat’ Feeney is rebuilding the Auckland rugby kingdom with his team of Princes. Feeney has been around long enough to know how to get the best out of New Zealand rugby’s most idiosyncratic side. He has instilled a tough edge to their perennial showiness, and that in itself is worthy of admiration. What’s more, he’ll probably win the Shield this week.
8. Carco the Mako, a shark, kind of.
I do not understand this name. Was it that hard to find something that rhymed with Mako? How about Sparko? Or Snarko? Or Donnie Darko? Did it even have to rhyme with Mako? What about just a good old fashioned name, like Michael, or Matthew; what about something contemporary like Mitchell or Mick. I would totally buy into a mascot called Marvin the Mako. I would have a selfie with a mascot called Malcolm the Mako. I would even have a beer with a mascot called Simon the Mako. Carco? How did this happen?
Actually it’s named after The Car Company. That’s deflating.
Still, you have to hand it to the Tasman mascot, it’s a very believable man-in-a-shark-suit.
9. North Harbour’s 30th anniversary commemorative jerseys, a fashion icon.
We told you they should play in those jerseys all the time. Have they had a win since they reverted back to their original strip? No. No they haven’t. Don’t question our taste in rugby jerseys people. Question everything else, but not that.
10. Kara Pryor, Taniwha
There was little to celebrate in Whangarei on Saturday night, which is the same as every other Saturday night but with a game of rugby not to celebrate. Quite what the Taniwha game plan is this year is beyond me, and that’s my team! Still they have two shining lights, one called Dan and the other called Kara, and both share the surname, Pryor. We are giving younger bro Kara the spot here for the fact Dan ejected himself from the match before another ritual humiliation of the Kauri was complete, which showed great experience. This team is desperate for a Going brothers triple scissors move, but one fears they would only end up cutting themselves. Dan Hawkins also has very large shorts.