Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders can still top NZ Super conference - Blackadder

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

The weeks are slipping by and the losses are beginning to mount, but Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder remains relatively relaxed about his team's position in the New Zealand conference.

Blackadder was bitterly disappointed with his team's performance in the loss to the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday night - the Crusaders' fourth defeat of the season - but afterwards refused to concede that the Chiefs would finish as top New Zealand team.

He cited the different pressures of the June tests, which are in the middle of a Super Rugby competition for the first time, injuries and further upsets.

With five matches remaining, four in Christchurch and the other in Hamilton for what promises to be an epic encounter against the Chiefs, Blackadder said there was still plenty to play for.

The Crusaders are eight competition points behind the Chiefs, who helped their southern rivals' cause when losing to the Reds in Brisbane last night (Sun).

"It's not over yet. There are still plenty of points on offer and there will be a few twists and turns to come," Blackadder said. "You look at a team like Manchester City and what they've managed to do [win the title in the final minutes of the last match of season]."

What is not in doubt is the fact that by losing to the Rebels in Melbourne, the Crusaders missed a big chance to close the gap on their rivals.

And while the Chiefs have lost an excellent player in Richard Kahui possibly for the long term following the centre's shoulder dislocation in Brisbane, the Crusaders will miss No8 Kieran Read more if his pelvis injury suffered in Melbourne proves serious.

Read is due to join Crusaders' training tomorrow (Tues) but is in doubt for Saturday's match against the Blues in Christchurch.

While the Crusaders are looking forward to spending more time at their new Addington stadium, the Chiefs must travel to the Blues, Highlanders and Hurricanes. They have a bye this weekend.

Blackadder has hinted at a re-shuffle among his backline against the Blues, with Dan Carter looking likely to come into the frame at first-five, replacing Tom Taylor, with Ryan Crotty a possibility for second-five. The backline's penetration against the Rebels was virtually non-existent and Taylor is also due for a break, the 23-year-old having a big workload in his first season at this level.

The run in:

Crusaders - v Blues (h), bye, v Highlanders (h), v Hurricanes (h), v Chiefs (a), v Force (h).

Chiefs - bye, v Bulls (h), v Blues (a), v Highlanders (a), v Crusaders (h), v Hurricanes (a).

- APNZ

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