Brian Ashby: Crusaders can't lose another lock

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2014 is the season that just seems to keep giving for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images
2014 is the season that just seems to keep giving for the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images

It feels as if the Crusaders have slipped into a Split Enz music catalogue - last weekend they "saw Red', while this week they have to prepare for a "Shark Attack".

After initially struggling for wins, the battle for bonus points has been more of an issue in recent times, but Sunday night's Suncorp slaughter over the Reds finally put to rest any lingering questions over their firepower out wide. Nemani Nadolo and Johnny McNicoll earnt a bonus point between them scoring four of the side's six tries.

When you sign on as a professional coach, you have to steel yourself for a great many bittersweet moments. While having to battle hard in the first half, the margin of the victory pleased coach Blackadder.

The downside though is injury to lock Luke Romano. The 28-year-old's season has barely gained traction as he struggled back from 2013's damages. Sam Whitelock has been in superb form and Dominic Bird is proving to be a very quick learner and is developing into a genuine force.

But after that, the second row stocks are looking a little bony. An injury to either Whitelock or Bird would be calamitous. Backup squad member Joel Everson faces a steep learning curve. The fitness of the second row may turn into a deciding factor in just how far the side progresses.

While the big question mark ahead of the Sharks showdown is whether or not Kieran Read and fellow All Black Tom Taylor are over their head knocks and fit for selection, an eventful 24 hour period after the Brisbane battle saw questions over two other longer term futures answered.

Tyler Bleynendaal and Corey Flynn have both announced they're shooting the gap. 23-year-old Bleyendaal is off to Munster for two years, while 33-year-old Flynn will finish his career at Toulouse. They are both "what if" players. What if Bleyendaal had chanced his arm at another franchise? What if 15 test All Black Flynn hadn't suffered so many serious career threatening injuries?

The Sharks looked a little sleepy at coach Jake White's former Canberra stomping ground at the weekend and it's hard to remember a worse performance from Frans Steyn.

The Crusaders are clearly on a roll, and while the Highlanders also beat the Durban dwellers three weeks ago, it's hard to imagine the top of the table Sharks staying down for too long. 2014 is the season that just seems to keep giving - bring on Saturday night.

- NZ Herald

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