Grant Chapman: Things you might have missed over the weekend, March 8-11

Can anyone keep the Crusaders from their Super rugby three-peat?


If you haven't quite made the transition from summer to the early Super Rugby start, you've missed an incredible performance from the reigning champions, who have reeled off four straight wins to begin their campaign.

They've been, by far, the most impressive of the New Zealand teams, which usually set the benchmark for excellence in this comp, and they've achieved it without some of their frontline stars.

To be fair, three of their four wins have been local derbies against opposition similarly diluted by the All Blacks player welfare policy. Their only foreign win was against bottom-placed Aussies, the Reds.

They've now compiled 19 straight wins and their 20th straight victory at home, fielding vastly different line-ups over the first month of the season and showing off their incredible depth.

The only common denominators so far - Joe Moody and Andrew Makileo in the front row, Scott Barrett at lock, Jordan Taufua and Whetu Douglas in the loosies, and just Richie Mo'unga, at first-five, among the backs.

Moody left Saturday's game early with an ankle injury, while Makileo will soon make way for All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor, who made his season debut off the bench in the 57-28 drubbing of the Chiefs. Douglas will eventually step aside for All Black skipper Kieran Read.

This week, they visit a Highlanders side suddenly riding a two-game losing streak, but perhaps the Crusaders' first real test will come next week, on the road to the Waratahs.

What were you doing at the age of 17?


Teenager golfer Kazuma Kobori began Saturday playing the final two make-up holes of his second round at the NZ PGA Championship and parred both to share the midway lead.

He was already a great story, an amateur qualifying on his home course on Monday for a shot at the big boys later in the week - our very own Roy McAvoy.

Kazuma Kobori celebrates his NZ PGA Championship
Kazuma Kobori celebrates his NZ PGA Championship victory. Photo credit: PGA of Australia.

Now, here he was in the thick of the title hunt and continued his run with another blemish-free third round of 66, six under par.

At 17, he had shown amazing composure through the first three days of the tournament, but how would he handle a four-shot lead on the final day? Pretty well, as it turned out.

Kobori's only bogey for the day - he had just two for the week - came on the penultimate hole, with victory all-but assured. He still finished four shots clear of Kiwi veteran David Smail, a former NZ Open winner, with nine Major appearances to his name.

He's got a Japanese name, but is NZ born, so mark him down as our next big golf hope and (dare we say it) an early Halbergs Emerging Talent contender for next year.

Anyone question Kane Williamson's decision-making?


OK, I just want to go on the record as refusing to doubt Williamson's captaincy of the Blackcaps.

For a start, I don't know enough about the subtleties of cricket to suggest he's wrong.

But, with the Bangladesh tail laid bare on Sunday afternoon, the decision not to toss Neil Wagner the ball was intriguing, as Boult and Southee finished the job.

Wagner had ripped the heart out of the Bangladesh line-up and at least deserved a chance at his seventh test five-wicket bag, which is still recognised as a significant milestone for bowlers.

The fiery South African native always gives the impression he's at war with the world, which might explain his penchant for short-pitched deliveries. He was the last bowler called on by Williamson and seemed determined to prove a point to his skipper.

Neil Wagner celebrates a wicket
Neil Wagner celebrates a wicket against Bangladesh. Photo credit: Photosport

Then Williamson froze him out on his 'five-for'.

The man known as 'Steady the Ship' has already gained a reputation for almost toally ignoring his specialist spinners, so maybe this is just another tactic to keep his most belligerent weapon hungry for wickets.

Others with greater cricketing credentials have found fault with other aspects of Williamson's approach. Former wicketkeeper Ian Smith continually questions his field placements on match commentary, while others have also raised eyebrows over his decision to declare only after he had secured his own double-century in Hamilton.

We're winning and he's leading the way, so it's hard to quibble too much - until the results begin to run against him.

As Smith himself admits, Williamson is cricket's Richie McCaw, who was also second-guessed by critics for most of his All Blacks career.

When did sevens suddenly become so competitive?


Well, the obvious answer is the 2016 Rio Olympics, when other nations began pouring money into their programmes in search of gold medals.

The United States stand as the most obvious example of this international revolution, with five straight finals and a victory on this year's world circuit.

But the IRB series has gone from a contest among a handful of teams to one where anything is possible on any given week. It may have started before Rio, but it has certainly become more pronounced latterly.

Spain's historic win over the All Blacks Sevens on Saturday was undoubtedly their biggest-ever scalp, surpassing victories over past tournament winners Scotland and Argentina in Cape Town.

Spain celebrate their sevens victory
Spain celebrate their sevens victory over New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty

Just as shocking though, the Spaniards' upset wasn't even enough to get them through pool play to the quarter-finals.

Every tournament, it seems, another upstart emerges to rock the boat. Two weeks ago, at Las Vegas, the Samoans shrugged off a few years of indifferent form and an opening 30-point loss to New Zealand to reach the final.

This week, in Vancouver, France followed a similar path, bouncing back from a 15th finish at Vegas and a 45-7 drubbing from the All Blacks Sevens in their opener, before bowing to South Africa in the final.

You may consider sevens "a carnival sport dumbed down for dress-up and day-drinking festivities" (as eloquently described by colleague Stephen Foote), but it's also become compelling viewing on the field as well.

When a rain-delayed cricket test is actually a good thing…


We probably all had mixed feelings about losing the first two days of the Wellington test to rain.

After an often tortuous Blackcaps victory in Hamilton, many probably wished this series was already over, with two more five-day affairs still to play.

It's been a weird summer, with largely one-sided contests against Sri Lanka (won by NZ) and India (won by the tourists), and now this snore-fest against Bangladesh.

Here we are preparing for a one-day World Cup, and the teams and fans are being served up a test series that offers little to anyone - including the players.

It's one way of breaking a few records, I guess.

Rain-sodden Basin Reserve in Wellington
Rain-sodden Basin Reserve in Wellington. Photo credit: Photosport

Maybe losing those two days to rain was the best thing that could have happened to this fixture. Not only does that create some withdrawal symptoms for true cricket fans (and shorten the torture for more casual observors), it also evens up the contest.

Now, the Blackcaps are not just competing against the outclassed tourists, they must also beat the weather gods for victory.

That seems like a fair fight for a team, now ranked number two in the world for the first time, seeking their record fifth consecutive test series victory.