Vodacom Super Rugby
Crusaders warn playoff rivals
Sydney - Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has warned his team's Super Rugby playoff rivals that the New Zealanders have plenty of petrol in the tank as they ponder the next stop on the long journey they hope will bring them an eighth title.
A 44-34 victory over the Cheetahs on Saturday secured South Africa's Stormers a passage to the semi-finals, meaning the Crusaders will next week host a first round playoff against the Sharks, who clinched their spot in the knockout stage by beating the champion Bulls 26-23.
"We just really feel like we're ready to unleash on a team and we haven't been able to do that and we're a little bit frustrated in the way we have been playing," Blackadder told reporters after the 16-9 victory over the Hurricanes that secured them the New Zealand conference title.
"I think there is a lot more in the side and I feel like we're a little bit underdone. We really haven't been able to put a team to the sword. The guys are fresh and fit and if we get everything right we will be dangerous.
"We're ready to play. There's a lot more petrol in the tank yet."
The Blues will host the other first round playoff against the Waratahs on Friday with the Reds, having secured top place in the rankings by beating the Chiefs 19-11, also taking a week off before their last four clash.
After February's deadly Christchurch earthquake damaged their stadium, home for the seven-times champion Crusaders for next Saturday's clash with the Sharks will in fact be 400 km away in Nelson.
The Crusaders are by now used to travelling after a season which has included trips for every "home" game, a long journey to London and a flight in a private plane just to get them to Wellington for Saturday's match after a volcanic ash cloud from Chile put another obstacle in their path.
Blackadder believes the adversity the team has faced this season has brought them closer together.
"The guys wanted to do it for all the people at home who are really hurting," he said.
"Every obstacle that has been thrown in their way, the guys have overcome that and it has been a pretty good performance," he added.
"It could have been so easy to have been distracted with the earthquake, the DC3, everything was on the line because if we lost we were heading for Africa."
The Crusaders beat the Sharks 44-28 in the one-off match played in London in March and Blackadder said they were likely to welcome back All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams for Saturday evening's clash.
The Sharks will be on a high, however, after upsetting the Bulls, the champions for the last two years, in a winner-takes-all clash in Pretoria on Saturday.
A week's rest could not have come at a better time for the beaten up Reds, who saw James Slipper added to their long list of injured players after the prop injured his ankle in the win over the Chiefs in Hamilton.
"We now get the two weeks off to take stock and get the bodies and the strategies right because we know finals demand more," coach Ewen McKenzie told Brisbane's Courier Mail.
"There are plenty of parts of our game we can build on but what we have earned is that winning habit which is very important."