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Crusaders hail world-class Sam Whitelock
April 5, 2013
New Zealand's Sam Whitelock powers towards the line, South Africa v New Zealand, Rugby Championship, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 6, 2012
Sam Whitelock has improved markedly since he last played for the All Blacks, Todd Blackadder says © Getty Images
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Sam Whitelock's effort in the Crusaders' victory over the Stormers last weekend has coach Todd Blackadder believing the All Blacks lock has taken his game to a new level.

As the tourists prepare to become the fourth Crusaders side, and the first in Blackadder's reign as coach, to go through South Africa unbeaten with their game against the Sharks, Blackadder said Whitelock had not had a lot of accolades for his effort. But he said Whitelock had reached "a new level of maturity".

"It was a world-class locking performance. He dominated [Springboks lock] Andries Bekker and the Stormers lineout, and has taken his game to a new level," Blackadder said of Whitelock.

By putting pressure on the opposition throws, the Crusaders were able to dominate the lineouts and build from that. Everyone knew what Whitelock could contribute around the field, and the display was an example of how much his game had advanced, Blackadder said.

Blackadder also said that prop Wyatt Crockett's effort in changing from loose-head to tight-head after Owen Franks' injury was another phenomenal effort that had largely gone unacknowledged.

Whitelock's brother, and the Crusaders captain in Kieran Read's absence, George said he had always known Sam's capabilities.

"Sam has set the standard now, but the Sharks have had two weeks to prepare and they will have seen what he did against the Stormers so they will throw the ball away from him and that gives others the chance," George Whitelock said. "He absolutely cleaned out Bekker, and it was pretty outstanding. It was only one game, but there is plenty more to come from him," he said.

Crockett said the effort in changing sides was something that he had been building up to in recent games, with more time being spent at tight-head, but it had been daunting after Franks left the field about a quarter of the way through the game. "The opposition were still fresh but I had good guys around me and that helped," he said.

Blackadder was delighted that Franks had made such a speedy recovery from a rib injury and had been able to train hard all week.

He said there would be no let-up in the forward intensity the Sharks would bring, but it would be a different type of game because they tended to move the ball more. "We are ready for the Sharks. We are as best prepared as we can be. We don't fear them but we will have to go up a notch from last week. It will be a different game but we are prepared for that. If you look at the Sharks, they know how to score tries. They can cut you to shreds."

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