In cricket you often hear the term ‘bunny’, such as when a particular bowler regularly gets a batsman out, and that batsman finds that bowler particularly difficult to play.
There are many examples over the years and I won’t bother naming names, but you know what or who I am talking about.
In rugby, we have regular tournaments, such as the Rugby Championship and the Six Nations to name but two.
Some might suggest that we have too many tournaments whereby teams become used to each other’s style of play.
Super Rugby was becoming guilty of it, before COVID, as I am sure other tournaments were. COVID has forced a bit of a reconsideration of the tournaments that we play.
The Springboks, for example, did not really get much international exposure for two or so years, until they had to regroup for the Lions tour.
Argentina, to their credit, kept it together, but this year showed just how hard it must have been in keeping it together, with their players spread all over the world.
Australia and New Zealand, as they usually do, worked out ways to keep the rugby alive, and we had two different iterations of Super Rugby.
Then we had a bit of a challenging period when the cousins got into a bit of a spat, but eventually sorted it out, and the result was the Rugby Championship.
Nobody has taken this period for granted. SANZAAR and RA and their partners have managed to put on a brilliant tournament, though I am not sure why the scheduling has teams playing the same opposition two weeks running.
I presume it’s to do with bubbles and logistics.
Nevertheless, the rugby has been pulsating… and why?
I suggest that it is because we are not taking each other for granted, as we have in the past.
To my great surprise last Saturday, I felt that the All Blacks were the bunnies of the Boks.
Probably because it was their 100th outing or whatever the landmark was. Probably because they have had some sort of inferiority complex over the last 100 years, or something, who knows.
But the All Blacks showed respect to the Boks, when they usually show a kind of arrogance to us, and the relationship with the Argies is different again, so there are these four or more wonderful dynamics going on between the four teams, which ensure that the dynamic of the game is never boring or predictable.
The All Blacks are the All Blacks – the benchmark, the trend setters, the standard of excellence that we all understand. Coach Ian Foster has picked up where coach Steve Hansen left off and taken them forward.
The Wallabies have found self-belief in the likes of Dave Rennie, Michael Hooper and, dare I say it, Quade Cooper.
Not to mention a bloke called Matt Giteau, after whom that law is named – and Dave Rennie has been able to exploit it to Australia’s benefit to get the likes of Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon back, not to mention Rory Arnold, Will Skelton and Tolu Latu.
Cooper may not even make it on the European tour, because of his Japan commitments, and neither might McMahon.
Last week some bloke on the radio was saying that Australian rugby shot itself in the foot by actively competing with the AFL and their grand final and the NRL with theirs.
I don’t think it makes one bit of difference. True rugby tragics will not even give that a moment’s thought and if the audience prefers one code to another, that’s not our problem – it’s theirs.
You will never get me to an AFL or NRL game if there is a half decent rugby game going on that I can watch.
What’s the point of all this? Well, I guess that the theme is that we have four teams that all play different styles of rugby. This tournament focused on the fact that all the teams are in camp, playing week in and out, without the burden of international travel.
That has brought that beautiful concept into focus and we can celebrate the differences in each other’s styles of play. Any one team can be the bunny on any given day and vice versa.
I didn’t want to use that French phrase ‘vive la difference’ because they are not part of this series, but I could not think of a better or more apt one in any of our vernaculars (and I definitely do not have a clue about the Argies). So, vive la difference will have to do.
This was also an article that started with a reference to bunnies so in the spirit of sportsmanship I would like to wish the Bunnies and the Panthers a great game this weekend.