Crusaders bank on McCaw

2011-05-26 09:22

Wellington - The Crusaders will look to newly re-signed Richie McCaw and Dan Carter to lead them against the first-place Reds on Sunday in a match that may be a preview of this season's Vodacom Super Rugby final.

All Blacks captain McCaw joined flyhalf Carter this week in re-signing for four years with the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby Unions, lifting any uncertainty about the futures of two of the Crusaders' key players.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has called on the New Zealand union to act with similar haste to secure the future of All Blacks inside centre Sonny Bill Williams, who will play against the Reds on Sunday before entering the ring for his fourth professional boxing bout.

Blackadder says league convert Williams is as important to the All Blacks and Crusaders as McCaw and Carter and should be offered similar incentive to remain in New Zealand.

McCaw and Carter's four-year deals include provisions to take breaks from rugby, or play overseas on short-term contracts. Blackadder said Williams should be offered a similar deal which would allow him to remain with the All Blacks and Crusaders while pursuing his boxing interest.

"I think he's just as important (as McCaw and Carter) to be honest," Blackadder said. "He's just been inspirational."

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie agrees, saying a key part of the Reds' preparation for Sunday's match has focused on the threat posed by Williams.

"I am not surprised (by Williams' success in rugby)," McKenzie said. "He is an excellent athlete, got good skills. They have adapted their game around it and profited from that."

McKenzie said while Williams' offloads were a dangerous attacking weapon, they carried a level of risk the Reds hoped to exploit. Williams has offloaded around 43 times this season but often loses the ball in tackles while trying to pass.

"He's got a good offloading game but those offloads don't always come off," McKenzie said. "There is a bunch of turnovers that come with it. Go through the stats. Some games he was effective and others he wasn't."

McKenzie said the Crusaders posed a broader theat as Reds tries to post its 12th straight home win.

"We will be coming up with a strategy that is right for us, not spending all our time on one player," he said. "There are All Blacks everywhere."

The Reds-Crusaders match is the most significant in the 15th round, carrying more influence on potential playoff combinations than any other. The Reds are atop the table after 15 rounds, the Crusaders in fourth place but only six points behind.

On current form, the two teams appear the best in the competition and increasingly seem on course to meet in the final on July 9.

While the Auckland Blues head the New Zealand conference, two points ahead of the Crusaders, they have lost over the last two weeks to the Reds and Stormers.

The Cape Town-based Stormers looked impressive in beating the Blues in Auckland last week but had to come from 19-3 down to do so. The Blues' defence - the most impressive feature of their game this season - has begun to unravel in recent weeks.

In other 15th-round matches that bear on the playoffs, the third-place Stormers will play the Brumbies in Canberra, the fifth-place Waratahs l meet the seventh-place Sharks at Durban, the sixth-place Highlanders will play the last-place Lions at Dunedin and the eighth-place Bulls take on the Cheetahs in Pretoria. Eight teams will compete for six playoffs spots over the last four weeks of the season.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey believes his team can finish in fourth place if it can win demanding matches in South Africa over the next two weeks against the Sharks and Bulls. Both South African teams are immediate playoff rivals.

"If we can pick up both those games I think even a fourth place is not out of the question," Hickey said.

The Sharks were challenging the Stormers for top spot in the South African conference until last week's loss to the Bulls, which left them five points behind the conference leaders.

The Highlanders will play their second-to-last match at Dunedin's Carisbrook stadium when they host the Lions. Next week's match against the Western Force will be the last Super 15 match played at the stadium before the Highlanders move to Dunedin's new World Cup venue.




15 Tom Marshall, 14 Brent Ward, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett

Substitutes: 16 Quentin MacDonald / David Hall, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano. 19 Matt Todd/Joe Wheeler, 20 Steve Alfeld, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Ryan Crotty


  • Bakmister - 2011-05-26 09:53

    Cheez this Crusaders side has some big names in it but saying that I belief that the nature or the new format of the competition wont alow teams to dominate anymore like for instance the crusaders and thier 7 titles or the Blues at the start or the Bulls at the end of the previous format.

      Jacques Claasens - 2011-05-26 10:41

      @ Bakminster The Bulls aren't out of it yet and I wouldn't be surprised if they make it to the playoffs. Would be nice to see three SA sides in the mix.

      Bakmister - 2011-05-26 10:53

      I dont know about this three side scenario, what will the log have to look like, 1. Reds, 2. Crusaders, 3. Stormers, 4. Blues, 5. Sharks, 6. Bulls. A lot will have to go our way to achieve that you know? QF1 Stormer vs Bulls, Newlands and QF2 Blues vs Sharks, Eden park. Haha imagine is the Sharks win Reds vs Sharks and Crusaders vs Stormers/Bulls.

      Jacques Claasens - 2011-05-26 11:18

      @ Bakmister No, I agree alto will have to go our way and although improbable it's not impossible and would be an exciting prospect that would almost grantee a SA team in the final.

      mike - 2011-05-26 17:07

      There is definately a chance for us to get 3 SA sides in the last 6. I mean the Crusaders have probably got the toughest remaining fixtures of any team so don't count on them making it. Although its unlikely they won't. Sharks and Bulls can both climb ahead of the Tah over the next 2 weeks and then the Tahs play the highlanders. If the Highlanders drop points life is going to get very interesting.

      mike - 2011-05-26 17:09

      If by some miracle the Lions beat the Highlanders this weekend we could see 3 SA teams in the top 6 come Sunday...

  • Nico Rette - 2011-05-26 10:18

    Let's hope the Reds fade away like they did last year. Would be more convenient for the Blues and Stormers to finish 1st and 2nd

      Jacques Claasens - 2011-05-26 10:39

      @ Nico Rette I agree, lets hope. One thing though when are the ref's going to start blowing this Reds side for their obstructive running? The just seem to get away with it game after game and I do believe that it's exactly this tacktick that make them seem more of a force than they truly are, might be wrong though?

      MACKAROONEY - 2011-05-26 13:32

      @Nico Rette ,like I said ,if that loose trio of the Crusaders cause a breakdown between 9 and 10 these Reds WILL fade away ,mark my words.

      Nico Rette - 2011-05-26 14:11

      True. I have noticed in a few of their games this year questions were raised, even by their amazingly unbiased auzzie commentators, for potential obstructions in some of their tries. On another day they could've been penalised instead of getting the 5 pts. Even though they are a great team, the new conference system has favoured them much more then the SA and NZ teams, and I doubt they would be at the top if the old system was still in place. If the Crusaders forwards front up physically, the loosies harass Cooper and the backline target Coopers channel, will be an easy win for the Crusaders. Easier said then done though.

      mike - 2011-05-26 17:10

      Actually for the other SA sides it would be better if the Reds won this weekend!

  • roboman1 - 2011-05-26 12:20

    The Lions are set for the 3rd win of the season. (4th if you add the bye where they picked up 4 convincing points)

      MACKAROONEY - 2011-05-26 13:33

      We ALL hope and pray !

  • MACKAROONEY - 2011-05-26 13:28

    This is going to be a hellava game !,but if Mcaw and his loose trio partners manage to shut Genia out ,Cooper's weak underbelly will be open for the world to see.I reckon the Crusaders by 10.

  • jan du preeaz - 2011-05-26 18:35

    "n Sunday in a match that may be a preview of this season's Vodacom Super Rugby final." yeah right

  • TheDuck - 2011-05-26 20:22

    McCaw is fat slow and giving away penalties! Still gets away with murder but the refs are slowly penalising him. I still hate the fact he is such a great Captain. Please take note of the last statement Victor.

  • TheDuck - 2011-05-26 20:23

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