Sheep and rugby - the end of the affair


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The secret is out. If you want to become a destructive defender in the mould of New Zealand star Richie McCaw, practice your tackling on sheep.


The Canterbury flank has revealed that he perfected his text-book technique by hunting down sheep on the South Island farm where he grew up.


McCaw's confession barely raised an eyebrow in the land of the long white cloud.


The role of ruminants in New Zealand rugby has an illustrious history. McCaw is one of a long list of All Black to have involved sheep in his training regime - even the great Colin 'Pinetree' Meads was rumoured to keep fit by pounding up and down hills with a wooly beast under each arm.


But the one-sided relationship between egg-chaser and cud-chewer could be over after an unseemly sheep-related incident at a recent NPC game caught the attention of animal rights activists.


Five sheep were released onto the pitch during the half-time break of Wairarapa-Bush's game against Horowhenua-Kapiti and the younger members of the crowd were invited to have a crack at bringing the animals down.


Despite the invite going out to those under the age of 10, reports suggest that a college student was the first to bag a sheep and it was he who took first prize - a crisp NZ$10 note.


But he is also alleged to have deliberately hurt the animal "after it hurt him".


Val Ball, the president of the Wairarapa branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), was not amused by the club's antics.


"The message that these young people are getting is that it's okay to get out there and bully animals for entertainment, it's not acceptable to do this sort of thing," said Ball.


Wairarapa-Bush rugby chairman David Cameron said no sheep were harmed during the chasing but confirmed he would look for new half-time entertainment.


But Charlie Meyer, the chairman of the Wairarapa-Bush supporters club, was unapologetic.


"If the day comes where kids can't have a go at tackling a sheep, we have to have a serious look at ourselves," he said.



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