Steely Crusaders have fresh pride
July 26, 2013
Tom Marshall and the Crusaders were imperious against Queensland Reds © Getty Images
The Crusaders are first to admit they have played well below par in their past two visits to Hamilton, but they have a steely resolve to make it third time lucky when they oppose the Chiefs in their Super Rugby semi-final at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
The Crusaders were not put to the sword in either defeat, but they concede they were outpointed in their 20-17 semi-final loss last year and in the 28-19 defeat in May - the latter their fifth and last loss of the 2013 campaign. They have since strung together five wins, and they were imperious in demolishing the Chiefs 43-15 in Christchurch on July 5 and again in humbling Queensland Reds 38-9 in their Super Rugby qualifier at AMI Stadium. Such commanding form has the seven-time champions listed as favourites to beat the Chiefs, who won their first Super Rugby crown with their 37-6 victory over the Sharks in Hamilton last year. The Crusaders are not trumpeting themselves as the top pick, but they have consigned the 2012 semi-final loss to history.
"We went up there last year and came a bad second," coach Todd Blackadder said after the Crusaders wound down their training on Thursday. "But that was last year and this is a new team with a new focus and with new goals. We've got a lot of momentum and there's a lot more pride in this team."
Blackadder said the Crusaders were a little out-coached and a little under-prepared when defeated by the Chiefs in their first meeting this year, and it was vice-versa for the rematch in Christchurch. "'There's always a strategy, always a battle to be waged tactically. We know we're coming up against a really good team that's really well coached. You can see that in their handiwork across the board."
Sam Whitelock offers a threat all over the pitch © Getty Images
Blackadder said he had not targeted any specific areas of the Chiefs' play or any individuals. "Both teams have been talking all week about getting their set-piece right," he said. "These games come down to those pressure moments and who best can make those really good decisions."
The Crusaders won all nine home matches this season, suffering all five losses on the road. "Teams have played well at home and we haven't risen to the challenge at times," Blackadder said. "I think that was earlier in the season when we weren't playing particularly well. That's not going to be in our mindset this week. It's purely a one-off where you're not there to get bonus points but there to win. Discipline in these games is really as critical as catching the ball."
Follow live text commentary of the Super Rugby semi-final between the Chiefs and the Crusaders on Saturday, July 27, from 7pm (NZT), 5pm (EST), 7am (GMT)
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the Super Rugby semi-finals
Tom Marshall and the Crusaders offer physical power from 15 to 1. © Getty Images
"Some people have it from day one and Brian did." Tom Hamilton talks to the two players who made their Ireland debuts alongside Brian O'Driscoll back in June 1999
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column