Justin Marshall 's Opinion

Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Blackadder spot-on with tactics

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Kieran Read charges in to score for the Crusaders who outplayed the Sharks with their clever running and kicking game in Christchurch. Photo / Getty Images
Kieran Read charges in to score for the Crusaders who outplayed the Sharks with their clever running and kicking game in Christchurch. Photo / Getty Images

The semifinal was a really good win for the Crusaders; it was a great win for Todd Blackadder and his staff.

Blackadder out-thought and out-coached the Sharks' Jake White and it is not often you say that about the former World Cup-winning coach.

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The Crusaders' research on the Sharks was spot-on, their tactics were excellent and the players were given the confidence to take the game to the opposition, even if it meant taking risks inside their 22m.

We should not underestimate the significance of this. Semifinals tend to be tight, torrid affairs but the Crusaders showed from the outset that they were not going to get sucked into a game of set-piece confrontation as they were in the round-robin match-up. They used their wings at first receiver to tie up the Sharks' loosies and were prepared to play rugby deep inside their half.

They moved the South Africans around and caused them no end of trouble with their running and kicking game. The traditionalists would have had a field day if the Crusaders lost because it is a game plan with a lot of risk, but they had the players to pull it off.

It might be a cliche, but it truly did all start with the tight five. Sam Whitelock was a force at the lineout and the front row ceded nothing in the scrum, which was potentially an area of concern before the match.

People are quick to talk up the merits of Bismarck du Plessis, but he was outplayed by Corey Flynn.

Moving further back, Richie McCaw was superb. He reinforced the fact that he is not just still one of the best flankers in the world, he's still one of the best players around.

I was impressed, too, by Colin Slade. He's a guy who hasn't fielded too many compliments over the past couple of weeks but I liked the way he has accommodated Dan Carter at first receiver and his involvement has still been important.

His passing is crisp and there were a couple of important touches that led to tries, including the final pass for Nemani Nadolo's try.

The big Fijian is a hugely important part of the Crusaders' weaponry and I'll talk more about him in my Chalkboard column later in the week, as I will the Waratahs' transformation from pretenders to contenders.

But for now I want to leave by saying I was staggered to learn the Tahs are taking the final away from their fortress, Allianz Stadium. As soon as I heard that I could imagine the Crusaders thinking, "Well, that's one obstacle out of the way."

I really question the greed behind the move to the Olympic Stadium. If you're that money-hungry raise ticket prices by $5 a head next year but don't compromise a golden chance for your first Super Rugby title.

All of a sudden the Tahs have lost that familiarity, the comfort zone, that fortress mentality. Psychologically it is a huge plus for the Crusaders. It nullifies home ground advantage.

Sure, there are still going to be tens of thousands more Waratahs' fans than Crusaders, but it's not their home ground - it's that simple.

Only the Waratahs' accountants will be as happy as the Crusaders about this decision.

- NZ Herald

Justin Marshall

Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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