Anendra Singh: Crusaders' defeat may be blessing in disguise

By Anendra Singh

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Photo / File
Photo / File

When all the talk last week was about getting behind the Crusaders before the Super Rugby final in Sydney, I scoffed.

"Why?" I asked belligerently.

The general thread of the response was simply because they were the only New Zealand flag fliers left in the race.

I vehemently begged to differ.

For one thing, it's weird to support, for argument's sake, the Hurricanes, all season then suddenly be expected to switch lanes to the Crusaders.

Secondly, how much richer is the country's No1 sport with the Waratahs' 33-32 victory in the final?

In fact, I'd like to believe the incremental gains will flow all the way up to the international arena for the World Champion All Blacks.

The Four Nations Series, involving the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks and the Pumas, will come alive - not to mention the contention for the Bledisloe Cup between New Zealand and Australia.

Whether the Waratahs' ascendancy, on the foundation of their maiden title, will have any beneficial impact on the Wallabies will become evident during the campaign.

That scribes and pundits are already scrambling to pooh-pooh any such assertions are in themselves indicative of the heightened expectation in the impending international calendar.

The Crusaders certainly weren't consistent throughout the season to command an air of invincibility going into the final.

Conversely, the Michael Hooper-skippered hosts showed in the first 15-20 minutes what an in-your-face mentality can do to any opposition.

Adam Ashley-Cooper scored the tries but Kurtley Beale has earned a national portfolio Quade Cooper has failed to make his own, although the Tokoroa Terror needs a coach who is willing to give him the licence to thrive in broken play if he returns to the Wallabies.

Wycliffe Palu was as inspirational as Hooper in the pack despite carrying on with what appeared to be symptoms of concussion.

How good will it be to see the Folau factor in the green and gold?

From the All Blacks' perspective, Hawke's Bay Magpie Israel Dagg didn't do enough to displace Highlander Ben Smith at fullback.

Matt Todd has made the No7 Crusaders jersey his own but, more significantly, ABs captain Richie McCaw is simply not cutting it in that position.

In fact, he hasn't for a while.

While Steven Hansen's blooding of Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett as pivots is great foresight, the same cannot be said of Dan Carter.

Carter's injury is a blessing in disguise because his successors need exposure to become match savvy.

If the Rugby World Cup in September/October next year in England is the beacon on the horizon then Carter and McCaw shouldn't be booking tickets on that ship.

Kieran Read's lack of composure surfaced in the post-match remarks after the final. That's why minimalising McCaw's presence will see his successor grow in assuming the mantle of captaincy.

The Manchester United of Super Rugby in New Zealand, the Crusaders franchise is up there with the Blues in the north in employing an open-cheque policy.

Todd Blackadder and Co will snap up talent around the country and abroad in a heartbeat, just as Sir John Kirwan and Co do - if luring Benji Marshall from the NRL in a failed experiment is anything to go by.

The Crusaders' attempts to entice Julian Savea fell flat but who else is on their wish list?

Malakai Fekitoa? Ben Smith? Richard Buckman?

Sure, rugby should encourage free enterprise but it seems a laissez-faire stance isn't everything it's made out to be.

It's time for some intervention from the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to prevent a couple of franchises running away with the sport, as football clubs do in the EPL.

Salary caps have to be imposed to ensure franchises such as the Hurricanes and Highlanders don't become entities that make up the numbers.

Without doubt former AB-cum-commentator Andrew Mehrtens and ex-Crusader Daryl Gibson have had a hand in the Waratahs' maiden Super Rugby title. It's equally imperative the NZRU plays its part to ensure all Kiwi franchises can emulate that feat without monetary hurdles.

Just as Crusader's Fijian winger, Nemani Nadolo, walked away from bigots calling him an "unfit, chubby n*****" at a Christchurch bar, Mehrtens and Gibson must shun detractors who are capable of labelling them traitors or worse.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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