Super Rugby has experienced a mid-season break for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1996, and the three test weekends of the June inbound internationals, which started after round 15 of this season’s competition, will give way to the resumption of Super Rugby.
With just over 105 Super Rugby players involved in test action, the cream of our Southern Hemisphere players remained in action during the June inbounds, although the remainder of the franchises and players didn’t all opt for the break.
Some Super Rugby teams opted to keep their powder dry during the June International test window, while others decided to keep themselves match fit with a series of fixtures played throughout the historic first ever season break.
The Brumbies were the first team to suit up for action during the test break, playing Wales in a midweek touring match, with the Six Nations Grand Slam champions winning 25-15 at Canberra Stadium.
In New Zealand, the reviving of the historic North Island versus South Island match took place in Dunedin, with the ‘home team’ winning 32-24 in an entertaining affair organised to assist with Otago Rugby’s recovery.
Highlanders back Kurt Baker was the star with two tries in the first inter-island clash since 1995, although the game ended with bad news for the Blues, with winger David Raikuna becoming the eleventh player from the three-time champions to suffer a season ending injury.
The Reds took themselves to the Sunshine Coast during the break, playing one team they were not scheduled to face during the 2012 regular season in the Hurricanes.
The sixth placed side from Wellington, who defeated the Waratahs in Sydney to sign off their first 15 rounds, were able to go back-to-back against the other Australian rugby states with a comprehensive 36-7 victory.
Ben Lucas and James Hansen emerged as injury worries for the Reds, with the two players hopeful to be fit considering that June gave way to the news that the champions have lost skipper James Horwill for the remainder of the season – with the Wallabies captain confirmed for surgery due to his troublesome hamstring.
The match also ended on a bittersweet note for Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara, who will miss six months after it was confirmed that he had broken his left ankle towards the end of the trial match.
The Rebels decided to keep it within the family, with the team playing an intra-club trial match at their training base of Visy Park, in theory the penultimate occasion in 2012 the Melbourne based outfit will play at home on June 29 blockbuster against the Reds for their final match at AAMI Park this season.
The Chiefs played two halves in a ‘three half series’ against the Counties Cavaliers and the Bay of Plenty Wasps, with the two latter invitational teams playing each other for a half before they played a Chiefs selection.
The Super Rugby side, minus their All Blacks contingent, accounted for the Cavaliers 45-0 and the Wasps 43-0 in games that featured the return of exciting fullback Tim Nanai-Williams.
The Force claimed a 42-0 win over a South Australian Rugby President’s XV over the weekend, a composite side made up from members of the Adelaide club competition and marquee representatives from Victoria, NSW, WA and the ACT.
The Force’s next match will be against the Brumbies at nib stadium on June 30, a match that will serve as the Western Australians farewell to foundation player Nathan Sharpe – who announced during the June break he would continue to play for the Wallabies throughout The Rugby Championship.
Former Springboks captain John Smit took his ‘Barney’s Army’ and World XV to Mr Price King’s Park to take on the Sharks for a mixed farewell match and charity fundraiser, and the veteran and his team – filled with stalwarts including Percy Montgomery and Brent Russell – went down to a strong Sharks selection 47-21.