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Flapping hair, Gatland poser: Super rugby talking points

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Wellington (AFP)

Coiffeurs, conundrums and code switches are among the Super Rugby talking points ahead of this weekend's fifth round of the 2020 season:

- Mullet spared bullet -

Jack Goodhue's infamous mullet hairstyle has survived after the Canterbury Crusaders centre put his crowning glory to a public vote as part of a fundraiser for charity Bald Angels.

It wasn't even a close shave, as 90 percent of participants in the online poll voted for Goodhue to retain the best-loved mullet in sport since 1990s-era Andrei Agassi.

"It was a landslide in the end, I'm not surprised," Goodhue told a 'Mullet in the Park' event in the North Island. "The majority of people love the mullet."

Goodhue did modify his flowing locks, allowing the back to be permed and dyed pink and raised NZ$30,000 (US$19,000) to help disadvantaged youth.

- Slow out of the blocks -

Warren Gatland admits to being puzzled by the slow starts Waikato Chiefs have made in all four of their matches and will try to fix the problem while they have a bye this weekend.

The Chiefs managed come-from-behind wins in their first three games but a 26-0 deficit proved too much on Saturday as former Wales guru Gatland suffered his first defeat since taking over.

"Whether we need to be a little bit more pumped up coming out of the changing rooms, or we need to look at our warm-up and make a couple of changes," Gatland said after the 26-14 loss.

The next Chiefs outing is against NSW Waratahs in Wollongong on March 6.

- Unselfish Mapimpi -

Coastal Sharks coach Sean Everitt has hailed the "team spirit" of Rugby World Cup-winning wing Makazole Mapimpi after the triumph over the Rebels in Melbourne.

Mapimpi crossed the try-line but, instead of completing his hat-trick, passed to captain Curwin Bosch, who scored to mark his 50th appearance for the Durban side.

"I thought it was really cool for Makazole to give the ball over the try-line to Curwin to dot down in his 50th match. It highlighted our great team spirit," said Everitt.

The Sharks tackle the ninth-place Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.

- Prime time ahead for Reds -

Brad Thorn's Reds are hoping their crushing 10-try rout of the Sunwolves last weekend, their biggest win of the Super Rugby era, will be the catalyst for a strong season as they prepare to host the Sharks.

While strides have been made after a stuttering start, the experienced coach says they remain a work in progress.

"To me, it will take three or four years to become a great team," he told reporters after 64-5 hammering of the Sunwolves -- their first victory of the season.

"A guy like (new No 8) Harry Wilson has played four games so how many more is he going to play in that time. Other guys will be in their prime at 25, 26, 27 and 28 and that'll be pretty exciting."

- Savea's coded message -

The Wellington Hurricanes are playing down comments the currently sidelined Ardie Savea made about a possible switch to rugby league.

The back-row forward floated the prospect of moving to the 13-man code on a podcast this week, saying that being able to play for his father's native Samoa was part of the attraction.

Hurricanes assistant coach Chris Gibbes said Savea's remarks "haven't dominated discussions", insisting the 44-Test All Black was focused on recovering from the knee injury sustained at last year's World Cup.

"If you look at it, he's a competitive athlete and he's not the first guy to talk about different codes," Gibbes told reporters.

"Ardie is part of us and he's working his way back into our team... we want to win a championship and we want him to be a part of it."

- And then there were three -

The All Blacks' brains trust thought they were pretty clever employing two playmakers at the Rugby World Cup but Auckland Blues coach Leon MacDonald trumped them when he used three against the Northern Bulls in Pretoria.

MacDonald had Otere Black at fly-half, with Stephen Perofeta and Harry Plummer both slotted into unfamiliar roles at fullback and inside centre respectively.

His tactical gambit paid off as Perofeta scored a try and Black's dramatic post-siren penalty secured a 23-21 win.

"I'm really pleased with how it all worked," he said, arguing the Blues looked more composed than in previous outings.

- Going in style -

Western Stormers star flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit says winning a maiden Super Rugby title this season would be the perfect farewell to Newlands stadium as they prepare to host the Blues on Saturday.

The run-down 132-year Cape Town venue will be demolished later this year with the Stormers -- the only side to have a 100 percent record this season -- moving to the stadium built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"With this being our last year at Newlands, there is extra motivation," said the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year. "The best way to say goodbye is by winning the final."

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