Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Crusaders won't win super showdown

Former league star turned Waratahs and Wallabies ace Israel Folau has twice the venom of the Crusaders' blockbusting back Nemani Nadolo. Photo / Getty Images
Former league star turned Waratahs and Wallabies ace Israel Folau has twice the venom of the Crusaders' blockbusting back Nemani Nadolo. Photo / Getty Images

Give the Super Rugby trophy to the Waratahs now.

Bookies in New Zealand are clinging to the notion that the Crusaders have the pedigree, are on a roll and this is their time to break a six-year drought. That's a very frothy feelgood tale to sell to red and black fans.


Look up the records. The Crusaders haven't won on Todd Blackadder's watch and that's not about to change. Just because they are chock-full of All Blacks does not ensure the success their fans are talking about.

Even the All Black selectors can see that and have slipped the leash on Ryan Crotty, Colin Slade and Matt Todd. They put the journey into journeyman which is all they'll achieve this week with a return trip across the Ditch.


They'd battle to make the Waratahs' top lineup when you match them up against Adam Ashley-Cooper, Bernard (the Fox) Foley and magical Michael Hooper.

It's true the 'Tahs' trophy cabinet hasn't seen any silverware since the series began 18 years ago. Things change, revolution is never far away.

And it's been like that since Coogee-born coach Michael Cheika took over and delivered the unconventional and abrasive style he learned as a rugged Randwick loose forward with the Ellas, David Campese, David Knox and Lloyd Walker.

Cheika has a fiery temperament but underneath there is an itch to succeed with attacking rugby, a desire he forges with ice-cool purpose.

The Waratahs finished top of the round-robin section of the tournament and have shown the bottle and the skill to continue that pattern.

They had a few set-piece glitches but that did not stop them smoking the Reds then the Brumbies in their latest games en route to tomorrow's final at Homebush.

As for all this tripe about yielding an advantage by shifting the game out there: haven't you been watching the Waratahs? They have backs to burn with buckets of speed and evasive skills whose talents are impeded on that puggy surface at the old Sydney Football Stadium.

That ground is close to several city pubs, which suits the social patterns of the rah-rah elbow-patches, but Homebush will let the 'Tahs release their attacking beast. The proof is in the results. They've played there twice this season and bladed the Reds 32-5 and the Brumbies 39-8.

There's all sorts of cliche talk about getting into the arm-wrestle and earning your results through hard work. Cheika will have those areas sorted and men such as Wycliff Palu, Hooper, Benn Robinson and Jacques Potgeiter primed for hard work.

He will ignore the clamour to double-team Dan Carter or Nemani Nadolo because it's a tactic which will leave holes elsewhere and he'll set Hooper and Ashley-Cooper on to those tasks.

He will emphasise how the Waratahs' star backs must express themselves even more than in their regular season. Israel Folau has twice the venom of Nadolo, Ashley-Cooper has to use his experience of almost 100 test caps and Kurtley Beale needs to breathe the belief he has threatened.

One more task should fix it. A trip to referee Craig Joubert's digs, a nice meal or two, brochures on coastal timeshares, travel opportunities, the chance of a place in the sun, a...

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- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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