Former teammates become adversaries

Former teammates become adversaries

Between them, All Black stars Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu have notched up 195 Super Rugby caps in the yellow and black jersey of the Hurricanes.
Yet tonight will be the very first game they have played against their former franchise as they line up for the Blues in a revamped backline to try and spark their new side into action.
The rift between the new Blues recruits and their former Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was well documented in the media last year, but if there was any ill feeling still remaining, Weepu and Nonu have done their best to dispel it.
“I’ve built a bridge and gotten over it,” Weepu said.
“I’ve had a chance to think about everything and get over it, there’s no point dwelling on the past and what’s happened.
“I’m up here now and he’s down there taking control of his team and he’s made a pretty good start to the campaign.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Ma’a Nonu.
“It’s a new year and I’m over it now. You’ve got to move on, it’s just professional sport,” Nonu said, citing The Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos and David Beckham leaving his beloved Manchester United to join Real Madrid. “I’m not saying I’m like those guys but things happen,” he said.
Nonu conceded it would be ‘strange’ lining up against the Hurricanes and his close friends for the first time tonight in a Blues jersey, but Weepu said they had to cast emotions aside and focus on getting the result.
“It’s going to be difficult seeing all my close mates in yellow on the other side of the field but I guess it’s my job and I’m here to work so we won’t be friends on the field,” Weepu said.
“I’m up for the challenge. The emotions will be pretty fine going into the game; it’s just making sure I do my homework beforehand to get myself ready.”
The friendly banter had already begun earlier in the week between Weepu and Cory Jane, and Weepu said he was expecting to be on the receiving end of a verbal barrage from the Hurricanes winger on the field.
“You can expect that from him but he knows I’m pretty cool when it comes to his mouth. I know he’s just trying to get under my skin so I’ll be prepared for it and no doubt if he’s at the bottom of the ruck we’ll give him a bit of lip as well.”
So do Weepu and Nonu feel like they have a point to prove tonight against their old franchise to vindicate their move north?
“I’ve got a point to prove to myself really, not so much against the Hurricanes,” Weepu said as he makes his first start for the Blues at first five-eighths.
“It is my old franchise and the toughest decision was to leave there but I’ve just got to make sure I go out and try my very best to help my team get the win.”
Nonu preferred to focus on the team, saying it was time to put in a performance they knew they were capable of.
“It’s a big point to prove collectively for our team, we need a win,” he said.
“At the beginning of the season we had a team that was stacked with All Blacks and had higher expectations of where we were going to end up at the end of the season.
“Obviously a few guys have fallen over and we’ve only won one out of four so it’s hard to take, we’re all feeling it and it’s just a matter of clicking. We haven’t collectively put things together but it’s another game at home so we want to win.”
Let’s hope tonight is the night things click and the Blues reignite their campaign with a vital win over the Hurricanes.