Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders coach a bit perplexed by failure

To make matters worse, Blackadder will have 10 of his players in All Black camp.

Cobus Reinach kicks as the Sharks pull off one of the most stunning victories of the season. Photo / Getty Images
Cobus Reinach kicks as the Sharks pull off one of the most stunning victories of the season. Photo / Getty Images

Todd Blackadder was at a loss as to how the Crusaders failed to beat the Sharks in Christchurch, but as he seeks to prepare them for a potentially difficult away match against the Highlanders amidst the backdrop of an All Blacks training camp, he simply hopes it was a one-off.

The Crusaders had a one-man advantage for most of the match following Jean Deysel's red card for a stamp on Jordan Taufua, and a two-man advantage after Willem Alberts' yellow in the second half, yet still contrived to lose 30-25 to a side which has never beaten them in Christchurch.

It was an extraordinarily poor performance from the Crusaders, who had won their previous five matches and who looked like championship material after thrashing the Reds in Brisbane. A victory would have put them on top of the table and in charge of their own destiny. Instead, they dropped a place to fifth, two points below the Highlanders whom they play in Dunedin on Saturday.

To make matters worse, Blackadder will be without 10 of his players until Wednesday due to the All Blacks training camp in Christchurch.

"It's going to be a really good challenge for the team this week," Blackadder said. "This needs to be an anomaly, just one of those poor performances you just can't put your finger on. That's our challenge, to show that it was otherwise what we'll take out of tonight is that the rot has set in and we're too good a team for that."

Credit must go to the Sharks for hanging on for one of the most stunning victories of the season. But there will be some harsh questions asked of the Crusaders this week once the squad is finally back together.

The feeling was that the Crusaders were too slow in adapting from a kick-first game plan to an attacking strategy which would have made the most of their numerical advantage, but how a team which included All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw couldn't make that leap almost beggars belief.

"They were hungrier than us, certainly at the breakdown, and that was disappointing," Blackadder said.

"You've got to be mentally up for every game in this competition and we weren't."

The Highlanders showed in their victory over the Hurricanes that they don't have too many issues with their defence. With only four players - Liam Coltman, Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Ben Smith - involved with the All Blacks this week their preparations are also likely to be much smoother than the Crusaders'.


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