Vodacom Super 14

Don’t write off the Crusaders

2009-01-29 21:36
Justin Marshall
Stephen Nell

Cape Town. – Don’t write off the Crusaders just because Robbie Deans is no longer the coach and Dan Carter won’t be playing flyhalf this year.

That was the warning on Thursday from former All Black scrumhalf and Crusaders icon Justin Marshall. He is currently in the Cape with English club side Saracens.

“I don’t think it’s an uneasy crown,” Marshall said of the Super14 champions.

“If you change the personnel of any team there will be a transitional period. What people maybe fail to recognise is that the transitional period probably won’t be that rough because the coaches they’ve brought in (Todd Blackadder, Mark Hammett and Daryl Gibson) are all former Crusaders players.

“They understand the success of the past. Obviously you can’t rely on the past to be successful in the future, but you also know the background to building a successful team. That’s never going to change.

“The ethos and work ethic the Crusaders have will always very much be a part of their culture, so those players already understand that. It’s just about them formulating a game plan for the future.

“I don’t think that the coaching set-up and change of personnel in that department will upset the Crusaders’ rhythm. It’s just going to be a question of whether other teams have finally caught up.”

Marshall believes the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Waratahs are well-positioned to make it to the play-offs this year because they are experienced and don’t have to enter rebuilding phases.

He sees a lot of potential at the Stormers, but thinks it’s difficult to predict how they will fare.

“They (the Stormers) are a very well-balanced side and very well coached. In the last two years they have built a squad that is now really solid and has experienced players, as well as exciting youngsters,” said Marshall.

“It will depend on how they do at home. The Super14 is very much about firstly winning all your home games, particularly if you are a South African team because you spend that extra bit of time on the road.

“If you drop any home games it really counts against you when you travel. Their ability to win at home will be paramount.

“The first true test will be against the Sharks because they are also a very good side. I think if the Stormers lose their first game at home against one of their big rivals, it could upset the rhythm of their season.

“It’s hard to say how far they can go, to be fair. I think they have an amazing amount of potential, but I still think they don’t have the experience of some of the other Super 14 teams.”

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