Rugby: Crusaders a team on the rise

By Wynne Gray

Sean Maitland. Photo / Getty Images
Sean Maitland. Photo / Getty Images

What a strange old comp. If you like your sport weird and wacky, tune into the Super 15.

Who says it is a fluffy, free-wheeling tryfest? The Stormers, the only unbeaten side, have scored just two tries.

Around those rare touchdowns, Peter Grant has kicked 20 penalties, Gary van Aswegen three others.

Even the motliest teams like the Rebels and Cheetahs have scored six tries in scraping out solitary victories.

While the Crusaders started with a loss, then an abandoned draw, they have looked to be the team on the rise.

Now they hope to transport that form to the other side of the world to show an England audience and the Sharks how rugby can be played.

The trip will deliver sufficient moolah, we are told, to prop up the finances after the February 22 earthquake wrecked their home ground.

You wonder at the unseen cost, though. After they return, the Crusaders head off again before the end of next month to South Africa. What toll will that travel take?

Meanwhile, at this early stage, a number of sides appear to be at the competition crossroads. The Waratahs and Brumbies look in freefall for their shootout this weekend.

The Tahs were so bad they were jeered by many in the Sydney crowd after folding against a Cheetahs side which had not won a game.

Now the Tahs head south to Canberra to play a Brumbies side which appears to be imploding after another player revolt.

Even the defending champion Bulls and the Hurricanes are facing form inquiries, though the Canes must fancy their chances this week against the lacklustre Rebels.

The Bulls appear to be stuck in a timewarp, unable to rid themselves of old habits and styles, and even more galling for their fans without a win this year at Fortress Loftus.

The Blues returned to their favourite Eden Park patch and rediscovered victory to coincide with Tony Woodcock's 100th match for the franchise.

It looked to have come at a fearful cost with lock Anthony Boric in terrible discomfort after a tackle jammed his ankle and knee into the turf.

Coach Pat Lam feared the All Black would join the locking crisis with Liaki Moli out for the season, Ali Williams out for a month and Brad Mika not yet ready for action.

But Boric recovered and played on for another 35 minutes.

Post-match checks and again yesterday indicated Boric may have torn a few fibres from a ligament but otherwise his knee was stable. He had also strained an ankle.

The lock had not dismissed his chances of playing the Chiefs this weekend. "I'll see how it feels later in the week. I feel pretty lucky because I was thinking at the time this is my season. I iced it all night to keep the swelling down.

"I was nervous trying to get back into the game. I had to build up my confidence but I think some adrenalin got me through. Lineouts were okay but I could feel it pushing in the scrums."

The Blues face the Chiefs who duked it out to send the Sharks to their first defeat. That result will give the Chiefs confidence they can repeat against their neighbours on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the top-of-the-heap Stormers will continue their programme in familiar surroundings. They play their next six games in South Africa before they embark on a four-game roadtrip against the Chiefs, Blues, Brumbies and Rebels.

You don't need to be Einstein to work out which two games they would fancy for a result. But who would have picked the Waratahs and Bulls to implode so badly this week?

The only certainty is that there will be many more unexpected results.

- NZ Herald

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