Sonny is still rising - Blackadder
March 28, 2011
Sonny Bill Williams was a star attraction as Super Rugby rolled into London © Getty Images
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder hailed the form of Sonny Bill Williams but warned that his best is still yet to come despite a dazzling performance at Twickenham.
The All Blacks centre was untouchable in the first half as the Crusaders laid the foundations for a 44-28 victory over the Sharks.
The Christchurch-based outfit had a bonus point wrapped up inside 33 minutes and led 34-18 at the interval following tries from Dan Carter, Sean Maitland, Zac Guildford and Israel Dagg.
The Sharks hit back in the second half to earn a try-bonus of their own but Maitland finished off another electric move to wrap up victory for the Crusaders.
Williams, a former rugby league international, spent two seasons playing for Toulon before moving back to New Zealand. It is an exciting thought for fans and an alarming one for rival players, but Blackadder's talk of "potential" hints that Williams still has more to offer.
Blackadder said: "Sonny Bill Williams was outstanding. He was world class today. He has the potential to be anything he wants to be in this game. He is sensational for our game. He has enormous potential. He has only had five games of Super Rugby so you wonder what more he is capable of. He is certainly a class act.
"He has really adapted to the game of rugby. When you watch him make a tackle he is back on his feet, attacking the ball, he is cleaning the breakdown, he is driving players through contact, he is kicking the ball. He has showed what a threat he is with the ball in hand and in defence I wouldn't want to be near him. He is a real threat."
The Crusaders' dazzling first-half performance was founded on a powerful scrum, with the front row of Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn and Owen Franks plus openside Matt Todd particularly impressive.
"Our forward pack did really well to give them quick ball and Matt Todd was outstanding," added Blackadder.
The Crusaders moved the game to Twickenham because their home stadium was damaged in the February 22 earthquake that struck Christchurch. This match, which featured 25 internationals in the two starting line-ups, was the centrepiece to a week of fundraising for the Red Cross earthquake appeal. Donations from the 35,094 ticket sales will total #175,470.
Once the RFU have finalised their accounts from hosting the match, they will also be making a contribution to the appeal fund. Blackadder believes Super Rugby has a future in the northern hemisphere.
"There was a great crowd out there. It shows it can be done. It was for adverse reasons why the game was put on today but I hope the people enjoyed Super Rugby. There were some great skills, some great players, some real power and swings of momentum on show. I'd like to think it could happen again one day and I thought it was just superb."
Sharks coach John Plumtree disagreed, although somewhat understandably since his squad have been on the road for four weeks, with matches in Perth, Melbourne and Hamilton before flying to London.
"Logistically it is pretty hard work in terms of travel," Plumtree said. "You won't see a game like that in a while."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton