Nonu set to move to Otago
All Blacks center Ma’a Nonu said yesterday he plans to switch to the Otago Highlanders for the Super 15 season next year, ending his one-year stint with the Auckland Blues. Nonu cited family reasons for the move, quashing speculation the 30-year-old would wind down his career with a lucrative move to Japan in the wake of last year’s Rugby World Cup victory. “It’s got nothing to do with the Blues, it is a decision I have made for myself and my family,” the 71-Test veteran told reporters, adding that details of the contract had to be finalized before he signed. Blues coach John Kirwan said he was disappointed with Nonu’s decision, believing he had a handshake deal with the powerhouse midfielder to remain in Auckland. “I am obviously disappointed,” Kirwan said. “The lateness in the decision has really put us in a difficult situation, but we are going to have a young, exciting young team and we’ll move on.” Nonu is the second high-profile Blues player to move to the Highlanders during the off-season, with prop Tony Woodcock also defecting after a disappointing season in which Auckland finished 12th on the Super 15 ladder.
ECB apologizes to Proteas
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) apologized on Monday to South Africa over allegations Proteas players provoked Kevin Pietersen in the text message saga that saw him excluded from England’s team. ECB chief executive David Collier claimed South Africans instigated the exchange, where Pietersen made derogatory comments about his then-captain Andrew Strauss in messages to his rivals. “Cricket South Africa [CSA] has made clear to ECB that the electronic messages were not part of any initiative or plan to undermine the England team or players,” the ECB said in a statement. “ECB has unreservedly accepted that assurance and wishes to reiterate that it has no issue at all with CSA — or the Proteas players — on this matter and appreciates that the South African and England players follow the highest ethical standards of behavior.” Pietersen had been out of favor with England since being dropped for sending the provocative phone messages, which disrupted the unity of the team and left him an outcast. And Collier’s comments about the South Africans earlier this month came as the ECB announced a healing of its rift with Pietersen. Despite the ECB and CSA announcing that they consider the matter closed — with Collier’s apologizing for suggesting the South Africans “may have acted in a way which was underhand” — differences remain. The ECB said that “the two boards do not agree on the sequence of events regarding any responses to messages between Kevin Pietersen and certain Proteas players.”
Hughes shines at Windsor
Jockey Richard Hughes rode a remarkable seven winners from eight races at “lucky track” Windsor racecourse on Monday. Irishman Hughes, 39, won the first five races on Pivotal Movement (13-8), East Texas Red (5-2), Embankment (7-1), Magic Secret (4-1) and Links Drive Lady (5-2). His winning run at the course, situated by the banks of the River Thames, was halted when he finished third on Ever Fortune (2-1) in the sixth race, but he took victory in the last two on Duke of Clarence (7-4) and Mama Quilla (15-8). Hughes punched the air as he passed the winning post on Mama Quilla, before making a flying dismount on his return to the paddock. “I feel over the moon,” Hughes told the Racing Post. “I always said I might do it one day at Windsor — my lucky track.”