Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Experience sure to be key in Super showdown

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Corey Flynn of the Crusaders jumps out of a tackle during the Super Ruby Semi Final match against the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images
Corey Flynn of the Crusaders jumps out of a tackle during the Super Ruby Semi Final match against the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images

So you don't believe in history's influence on rugby games?

Try telling that to the All Black staff who value their experienced crew and reinvest in that core while they inject new players around them.

Try telling it to the Crusaders and Waratahs who meet in Sydney on Saturday in a nod to their 2008 Super Rugby final when the host Crusaders clambered back from a halftime deficit to claim their last crown.

Since then, the Crusaders have visited the carnival every year without celebrating, while the Tahs spluttered until the arrival of hard-edged coach Michael Cheika.

As the playoffs approached the Crusaders found a better tempo and breadth to their work, while the Tahs have been ferocious and frisky as they welded new ideas to a better work ethic.

Todd Blackadder has embarked on the playoffs for six years in succession. Although he has not found the ultimate success there must be some advantage for him and his crew with that experience. Cheika is taking his men through that pressure for the first time.

The Crusaders have to travel but that will not be any handicap. Many are annual visitors to ANZ Stadium in Homebush for test duty and a huge cluster of supporters will congregate at the ground to negate the Tahs followers.

Both sides have five men who began that 2008 title joust, three forwards and two backs each which underlines most observations that there is little between them in their 2014 rematch.

We can chart statistics from their season progress but we have no first-hand comparative evidence because they were not drawn to meet in pool play. In one way that is a nonsense, but it does ramp up the intrigue about this year's showdown.

The Crusaders have Daniel Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Wyatt Crockett returning from the 2008 decider and the Tahs have Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson who were on duty.

That is a strong base for each side with the most crucial matchup being the Carter-Beale confrontation.

Six years ago when they met, Beale was a teenager who played strongly at first five-eighths until he was injured and the Tahs' impact dropped.

This time they are in midfield, Carter on his strong return from his sabbatical and Beale into an alternate playmaking role. He has brought a different dimension to the Tahs attack but will not get as much room against a rushing defensive line.

Beale is a confidence player who has a clever range of attacking moves, but there are questions about his defence. If his assurance is dented his play suffers, so the Crusaders may aim early moves at him.

Theories about the final will expand as the week winds on, while the coaches and players will attempt to insulate themselves from the pressure. All that matters for the Crusaders and Waratahs is the 80 minutes or extra time at Homebush while the public lay out their speculative previews.

South African Craig Joubert will referee the final in Sydney, Sanzar announced last night.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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