Mental toughness is something Canterbury rugby now has in abundance. It's something that many national sports teams should be trying to bottle up & teach.
As has been already discussed on RH's discussion board, this was a GREAT game! One of the best ever...certainly living up to all the finest traditions of Ranfurly Shield rugby. Otago put up a wonderful challenge!
For me a special star was Reuben Thorne. He is a very special footballer...great speed, good lineout option and a formidable tackler. Good hands to for a big man. Along with Toddy & Razor Robertson they ensured Otago never completely got on top of the impressive Canterbury forwards. Somerville again showed why he's true AB material. Mehrts was inventive as always....and even Vunibaka caught the ball & ran fast! For Otago Justin Swart looked awesome (who says the bok's have crap attacking players?), Kellaher strong, and Josh & Taine having great games on defense causing many turnovers on a Canty team dominating them in the possesion & territory stats.
Since the AB's have come back into the NPC its has been noticable that perhaps the AB's failings this year has not been the fault of the Cantabs as much as people claimed at the end of the international season. The form of the Otago & Wellington AB's has at best been ordinary. People forget that out of the AB starting lineup there was only 5 Cantabs normally there (Blackadder, Maxwell, Cribb - draft player I know, Marshall & Mehrtens). The guys whom haven't been performing in the NPC hace been Hoeft, Oliver (injuries), Meeuws, Randall, Josh (to a certain extent), Alatini, Iereima, Cullen, Umaga & Lomu....thats 10 of the AB's!
So this game was a chance for the Otago AB's to prove that they should be the first choice AB's. Did they achieve that? Yes & no probably. They showed loads of courage & guts...but they also showed the same propensity to not follow through with the performance that the AB's showed this year. Wheras the Cantabs showed the sorta never-say-die attitude that everybody has come to expect over the past few years.
Ranfurly shield rugby is very special. Its got history behind it, but it also has a special uniqueness. The fact that the challenger actually has to win the game to take the shield means they challenge in a positive frame of mind. They have to WIN it! This makes the defender also positive because they have to match & better the intensity of the challengers...its that old adage that the defender for every defense goes out to "win" the shield is so true. Teams have to show it the respect it deserves. I think both teams did do that on Saturday night. All in all a very special game that the Cantabs will be relieved to have won...you can't beat the local derby!