Durban defeat leaves bitter taste for Crusaders
April 5, 2013
Captain George Whitelock knows the Crusaders must address their poor discipline © Getty Images
The Crusaders were left with a bitter taste after they lost in Durban.
Losing fair and square is easier to take, giving the game away isn't.
Scoring the only try and dominating possession and territory early into the second half, they were in a perfect position to execute a clean sweep of their South African tour.
Instead they handed fly-half Patrick Lambie all the chances he needed to nail seven penalties with the boot and earn the Sharks an unlikely 21-17 victory.
Captain George Whitelock expressed his concerns over the poor discipline and admitted it had been a frequently discussed topic in the camp for the "last couple of weeks".
"We were our own worst enemy; we made mistakes in our own half and the Sharks pounced on them with three points," he said. "Once we got those [early] points we let them off the hook with bad discipline and Patrick Lambie didn't miss a beat all night. He just kept the scoreboard ticking over."
His makeshift opposite number Tyler Bleyendaal had just as many penalty shots but could only convert four into points.
Firing at just 50 percent with the boot, after he also missed a conversion, the absence of Dan Carter could not have been more noticeable.
Coach Todd Blackadder is keen to get his star play-maker, who stayed in New Zealand for the birth of his first child, back for next week's clash with the Western Force in Perth.
However, he hinted that it might be pre-mature to assume Bleyendaal is out of a job just yet.
"There's a good possibility he [Carter] could start, but if there's any injuries and niggles we could contemplate a shift," Blackadder said of Carter's potential switch to inside centre. "It's too early to say just yet, but certainly with a guy of his calibre we will definitely look to use him."
Wherever Carter slots in, the Crusaders will fare better with his expertise directing the backline. With 94 Tests and one more Super Rugby cap under his belt, Carter should have a calming effect on those around him.
As much is hoped for centre Robbie Fruean, whose late hit allowed the Sharks to climb to within two points when time had already expired in the first half.
But he was not the worst offender. That honour goes to one of the Crusaders' usual suspects in Wyatt Crockett. Penalised once in general play, he was a regular target of referee Lourens van der Merwe at scrum time.
One final scrum infringement in extra time ended any hopes of a comeback as the Sharks threw their arms in the air to celebrate a famous victory.
"Our scrum in the second half was disappointing; at crucial times we got penalised," Whitelock said. "We were really disappointed that we were in that game and we really felt that we let ourselves down by not playing in that second half."
The loss had no immediate effect on the Crusaders' hold on sixth place in the overall standings. But with three games remaining in the round, and as many teams guaranteed points from their respective byes, they stand to fall to as low as eighth.
Sharks captain Keegan Daniel lauded his men for their efforts, which saw them climb six points clear atop the South African conference.
"We knew it was going to be an epic battle up front and the collisions were there," he said. "I think we got off the line a bit more; our defence was a lot more structured. We put them under a bit more pressure and converted that into points. I'm just proud of the way the boys put their hands up in the second 40."