What is it about Eden Park?

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Eden Park is a ground where Australian rugby has traditionally withered, at Test and Super Rugby level.

The Wallabies have not won at the intimidating ground since 1986 and the Brumbies have one of the best Eden Park records in Australian Super Rugby, with four wins from 13 matches.

Even they could not add another win to their tally when a victory would have been vital, against the Blues last weekend.

Bernard Foley has seen some tough times in Auckland. Photo: Getty ImagesA hoodoo, a curse, whatever you call it, there’s something intangible about the venue that seems to haunt visiting sides, though even long-time residents can’t put their finger on it.

Wallabies and Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley has felt plenty of Eden Park bruising, including his Waratahs debut in 2011, a qualifying final against the Blues.

“I wasn't even part of the Waratahs at the time, I was in the Sevens program,” he said.

“It was great to come in and be around a  finals game and get to play at Eden Park there.

“It can be daunting venue but for us it's also a great challenge.

“We've spoken about what we're going to come up against and factors and there's no other way we'd want it I suppose going over there, playing a game that we're proud about and letting the cards fall where they do. ”

Foley said Eden Park’s intimidation factor in big part because of the vicious crowds but they had a plan of attack, or rather defence, to combat that.

“When you're going for a Bledisloe, in those games the crowd are really hostile, they're against you,” he said.

“I think the Blues they can really feed off the crowd atmosphere, especially when they play an attractive style of rugby.

“That's what we've talked about - our defensive systems and our structures in nullifying their attacking threats and in that regard you take away the crowd.”

Bernard Foley made his debut at Eden Park. Photo: Getty imagesWhile Wallabies are sprinkled throughout the Waratahs squad, Foley said a drought-breaking win there wouldn’t necessarily spell Bledisloe glory.

“There's not much that transfers from Super Rugby to Test rugby,” he said.

“For us, it's just going out there and putting out a good performance.

“We've everyone has those aspirations to play well wherever you are and it's great to go overseas, especially in these bigger games where they are asking a lot of the senior players to step up.

“For us it's a great challenge but in saying that it doesn't really transfer into later in the season, that's a whole different kettle of fish.”

Angus Ta'avao loves Eden Park. Photo: Getty ImagesWaratahs prop Angus Ta’avao is going back to Auckland for the first time as a Super Rugby visitor, with the Waratahs chasing just their second Super Rugby victory there.

“I had a  little taste (of being a visitor) when I moved from the Auckland ITM Cup team to Taranaki and I found it a bit weird but I sort of felt at home,” he said.

“I love Eden Park as a field, so it's just going to be awesome.

“It's such a special place for New Zealand rugby and there's a lot of history behind Super Rugby there and NSW playing the Blues.

“Once I'm on the field, I think it will just pass by and I'll just be trying to do my job.”

Ta’avao said there wasn’t any sort of invincibility associated with the ground, and in fact he has been on the end of defeats there with the Blues struggling in recent years, though it always felt like a fortress.

“It's the home of New Zealand rugby. It's got a lot of history. Being at the Blues that was our fortress.

“We always talked every week - this is our home, in front of our home fans and you look aroud any home team, that's your fortress and you really want to play your best and have your home team’s back.”