Crusaders confident of finals berth
May 27, 2013
Patrick Osborne and the Chiefs were too good in Hamilton © Getty Images
Crusaders attack coach Aaron Mauger concedes his team has little chance of heading off the Chiefs as the top New Zealand conference qualifier for the Super Rugby finals, but he is confident they will be one of the six teams in the play-offs.
The 28-19 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday left the Crusaders in sixth spot, 10 points behind the table-topping Chiefs with four rounds remaining.
"We can only focus on us," Mauger said at Crusaders training on Monday. "Hopefully, if we get a result against the four teams we come up against and if someone tips the Chiefs over, there might be an opportunity for us But they're a quality side, they're playing some good footy, and they deserve to be at the top."
Mauger paid tribute to the Chiefs coaching staff for their shrewd analysis of the Crusaders game, whereby they positioned themselves to charge down two clearing kicks to be rewarded with 12 points.
"We're still fairly positive but obviously disappointed that we missed a few opportunities. We created enough to win the game but small parts to detail cost us. They showed they were a little bit smarter probably with their coaching and also on-field management of the game. That little bit of detail has been magnified to us and we've got to make sure we get it right to compete against the top teams."
The Crusaders need to get it right quickly for they face the eighth-placed New South Wales Waratahs in Christchurch, with the visitors just three points behind despite being upset by Melbourne Rebels last Friday.
"We're right on the fringe [top six] but fortunately for us it is in our hands so we've got to control what we can and get up for four games," Mauger said. "We'll throw everything at it this Friday night and I definitely see us being there [for play-offs]."
The Crusaders are happy with their run in, being at home to the Waratahs, the Chiefs, and the Hurricanes and away to the Highlanders, but they will be without Sam Whitelock this weekend - as his fractured finger is expected to keep him out of rugby for at least four weeks - and prop Owen Franks remains in doubt.
The interruption of the second All Blacks camp sees the Crusaders have their main training on Thursday, a day out from the game, but Mauger said the team and the game plan would not change drastically. "It's difficult having our All Blacks in camp this week so we can't afford to change too much. We've got to make sure things we do are done better and when opportunities are available to us we nail them and put teams under pressure."
The Chiefs showed title-winning credentials against the Crusaders (video available only in Australia)
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton