Gopperth ready to start calling the shots

Super 14 star Jimmy Gopperth admits that he’s glad to have seen the back of centre Tana Umaga and says it’s time he takes more responsibilities as the Hurricanes playmaker and the absence of Umaga will help him. .

Gopperth says that he felt overawed by having Umaga outside him and concedes he often let the All Blacks skipper call the shots.

“You have a guy who is one of the best rugby players in the world standing right next to you, of course you’re going to listen to him,” Gopperth admitted in The Dominion Post.

Positively for the Hurricanes Gopperth still only 24 after playing 41 games for the Canes says that it’s time he stepped out of the shadows and played the part of a backline general.

“It’s about time that I started running this team. I’m definitely feeling more comfortable now. Year by year you get more comfortable. Hopefully if all goes well, I’ll be playing my 50th game later in the season.”

Gopperth has been criticised by coaches Colin Cooper and Aussie McLean for not reading what is in front of him and reacting to how the game is developing. Gopperth who made his debut against the Reds in 2005 accepts the criticism as valid but suggested that his natural instincts had been coached out of him.

“When I first came on the scene that’s all I did – play what was in front of me – and then I got in the mode of trying to play for everyone else and not read that game and do what I do best.

“I’m looking forward to having a go and doing what I do best – the basics well and reading what I see.”

The Hurricanes picked up their first win of the season against the Reds on Friday night by winning 23-18 and Gopperth suggests that the breakdown was still an area the team was coming to terms with.

`We were a little bit more patient,” Gopperth said of the win against the Reds.

“The first game (against the Waratahs) everyone was just so keen. We’ve got that out of our system and went back to our basics.”

Gopperth also admitted that the new Experimental Law Variations (ELV’S) adopted in the competition have been tough on player’s fitness.

“Everyone has to learn how to play half-back these days because if the ball’s not shifted it’s a free-kick against you. Once you’ve cleaned the ball the next guy has to pass it,” he explained.

“The defence is a lot harder for the nine, ten and seven. Attack-wise we’ve got a lot more space, more time, but it’s quick ball so we have to do things pretty quickly.

“Once we get these rucks sorted – I think we need to send a few more numbers in – we’ll be away.”

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