The old dogs keep flooding back
The old dogs keep flooding backSHARE
Struggling Super Rugby side the Highlanders have been forced to send another SOS to an aging All Black in Japan, this time bringing back former Crusader Mose Tuiali'i.
The 32-year-old Tuiali'i, who played nine Tests for the All Blacks and has been in Japan since 2008, returns to replace injured No. 8 Nasi Manu.
He becomes the fifth New Zealand player brought back from Japan in the past two years to bolster the Highlanders, who are the only winless side in this year's Super Rugby competition.
Last month the Dunedin-based franchise brought back Neil Brew, 34, seven years after the journeyman centre went offshore to play first in Bristol, England, and then in Japan.
During the off-season, Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph picked up 32-year-old loose forward Jake Paringatai and former All Blacks lock Brad Thorn, 38, who were both playing in Japan.
Last year, he brought home 30-year-old Tamati Ellison, who was with Japanese club Ricoh.
The Highlanders started the year as one of the more fancied New Zealand sides following their recruitment of Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu from the Blues to put 11 past or present All Blacks in their ranks.
However, they have been hit by injuries to several key players and also the loss of All Blacks flank Adam Thomson, who has quit New Zealand rugby to play in Japan.
The return of a number of players from Japan seems to be the problem for Joseph and the Highlanders as a lot of the teams in Japan do not play to the same intensity as Super Rugby which means that these players have not experienced the physicality and pace of Super Rugby for a number of years.
The reason for this is that these players are on their way out of the international rugby spotlight – heading into the twilight of their careers.
The professionalism of a lot of the teams does not match that of Super Rugby and it seems that Japanese champions Suntory Sangoliath is the one side that could, potentially, match-up to a Super Rugby franchise.
This is not the reason why the Highlanders have been battling this season but with the pace of the play increasing every season, these older players are being left behind and drop off the pace during the 80 minutes on the field.