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Contests within a contest

Friday, March 10, 2006    Sportal.co.nz    

The Rebel Sport Super 14 individual contest of round five is Marty Holah, unwanted by the All Blacks selectors for the Grand Slam tour, versus Richie McCaw, uncrowned king of the open-side and All Blacks captain-in-waiting.

As the Chiefs attempt to maintain the recent winning momentum they have by getting under the skins of the rampant Crusaders, the battle in the loose promises to be one of intrigue.

McCaw has been diplomatic on the situation that surrounded Holah's omission telling The Press it was difficult for him to comment when he played in the same position. But he did feel sorry for Holah.

Holah had been regarded as the nearest contender to McCaw in the open-side flanks but the selectors went for the option of using Chris Masoe as their back-up man in Britain, forcing Holah down the pecking order.

But as the player closest aligned to the McCaw style of play, there is still everything for Holah to play for with the Chiefs.

McCaw respects his rival.

"Marty gets himself in good position to wreak havoc on opposition ball.

"He gets in there and tries to disrupt the flow of your game and, from what I've seen, he's done that effectively for the Chiefs so far this season.

"Whereas Masoe is more into being physical and getting shoulders on bodies and being disruptive that way rather than going for the ball, although he's doing a lot of work on that," McCaw said.

However, while the loosies are doing their damage up front in a bid to dominate for their packs, another clash, at first five-eighths is likely to have more say in the final outcome.

Stephen Donald, the Chiefs pivot, is up against one of the form players of the competition whose presence has added so much significance to the Crusaders threat in Dan Carter.

While the Chiefs have a three-quarter line capable of opening up the best defences in the competition, it is the supply of good quality ball that is needed to unleash them.

Withstanding the pressures of the Crusaders attacks around rucks and mauls, and ensuring good ball is transferred will be a key requirement for the home team if it is to seriously challenge the competition leaders.