We all know I am a sucker for a nice drop goal and Hayden Parker’s golden boot has been in good form, racking up all 18 points for the Highlanders against the Hurricanes.
Over the next few rounds the lads face a tough run of season-defining home games against the Crusaders and the Chiefs here at the lunch box, with a trip to Brisbane to face the bottom placed Reds in between.
Hopefully the break for the test series against England won’t fuck up our momentum, but as the Highlanders will probably end up contributing fewer players than the other sides, this could work out well in their favour.
These last three games are crucial as the Chiefs, Warratahs, Highlanders and Crusaders currently occupy third to sixth places respectively with only three points between them.
The ‘Landers have an inferior points differential, which could come back and bite them in the ass, but it is worth noting that PD is secondary to total wins as a means of separating teams who end up level on competition points.
Even though he plays for the Blues, I do feel sorry for Charles Piutau, who has picked up the dreaded knee ligament injury, as I know from personal experience how hard it is to recover from these sorts of knee injuries. However, I hurt my knee playing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on the trampoline with my sister when I was younger. Unfortunately, Nicola didn’t believe I was really hurt so she hauled me back on to the trampoline and proceeded to “operate” on me by poking and prodding her chubby little fingers into my deformed and rapidly bruising knee.
After she tired of this torture she realised I wasn’t faking it; she eventually decided to find Mum who dragged me inside, dumped me on the couch and then fucked off to work leaving me there in agony until Dad come home and took me to the emergency room. As a result of this I missed our annual Pirates R.F.C trip to Christchurch where I would surely have caught the eye of the All Blacks talent scouts and been fast tracked to international sports super stardom! Instead I have found myself throwing stones in the glasshouse that is student media.
Finally this week, our extended FIFA World Cup preview concludes with Group H.
AlgeriaCAF - Confederation of African Football
Population: 39 million
Nickname: The Fennec Foxes = a very cute big-eared Saharan fox.
FIFA World Ranking: 25th
Qualified: On “away goals” rule after 3 - 3 aggregate draw with Burkina Faso.
Fun Fact: Beat Egypt to qualify for 2010 World Cup sparking huge protests and violence, intensifying an already bitter rivalry.
History: Traditionally one of the stronger African teams. Winning the African Cup of Nations in 1990 remains their biggest success.
Key Players: Captain Madjid Bougherra is their oldest and most capped current player.
Prediction: Can’t see much cause for hope as they barely scraped through qualification and have never beaten any of their group rivals.
BelgiumUEFA - Union of European Football Associations
Population: 12 million
Language: Dutch, French and German
Nickname: Diables Rouges = Red Devils
FIFA World Ranking: 12th
Qualified: Undefeated winner of UEFA Group A.
Fun Fact: The Royal Belgian Football Association was Europe’s first FA, founded in 1885.
History: Recent performances have been encouraging but no major tournament success yet. They were ranked as high as fifth in 2013.
Key Players: Chelsea top scorer Eden Hazard and Man City captain Vincent Kompany lead a very impressive squad.
Prediction: Will win this group and could go very deep. I have picked Belgium as the dark horse of the tournament.
RussiaUEFA - Union of European Football Associations
Population: 145 million
Nickname: Sbornaya = Team (= boring!)
FIFA World Ranking: 18th
Qualified: Winner of UEFA Group F
Fun Fact: Former England manager, the angry and animated Fabio Capello, is now in charge of Russia. In Soviet Russia, World Cup hosts you in 2018.
History: Founded in 1992 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Disappointing World Cup record thus far but a third place at Euro 2008 was very impressive.
Key Players: Zenit striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov has 78 caps and is just two goals short of becoming Russia’s all-time top scorer.
Prediction: Should have enough in the tank to make it to the knockout stage, but not much more than that.
South KoreaAFC - Asian Football Confederation
Population: 50 million
Nickname: Taegeuk Warriors = from the symbol on their flag
FIFA World Ranking: 55th
Qualified: Runner-up, Asian Group A
Fun Fact: They have a cool nickname and a badass white tiger on their crest.
History: Eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, which is the best record of any Asian team. Best result being a controversial fourth place when they co-hosted with Japan in 2002.
Key Players: On-loan Arsenal player Park Chu-Young has been labelled South Korea’s best striker despite his lack of recent club games.
Prediction: Despite their low ranking it will be an interesting game against Russia. Whoever wins that game should go through.