Rugby: Mauger task helped by Guildford's return

By Nick Tolerton of the Christchurch Star

Zac Guildford leaves the room after a press conference in Wellington yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Zac Guildford leaves the room after a press conference in Wellington yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

No one will be happier to see Zac Guildford back in a Crusaders jersey than the team's attack coach Aaron Mauger.

The results of the first two Super Rugby matches were certainly not what the former All Black, appointed after helping Canterbury to the NPC title last season, was looking for, but losing winger Guildford on the eve of the season did not help their preparations.

"All the guys that have been there have done a great job so far, but having him back in the mix obviously just adds to our armoury,'' said Mauger. "He'll be excited, he'll be ready to go and looking forward to it.''

The Crusaders hope to make it third time lucky tomorrow when they meet the Bulls in their first home match. Co-incidentally the Bulls were their last opponents at AMI Stadium, the Crusaders comfortably winning 28-13 in the playoffs last July.

It was their eighth consecutive home win over the Bulls since they lost to them in the first Super Rugby competition back in 1996, but the Bulls' victory over the Blues last week suggested it will be harder this time.

Mauger said the Crusaders' poor start was not disheartening, and feels the perception of the team at present is influenced by results rather than performance.

"There have been so many good learnings out of the last couple of weeks,'' he said. "I think we're getting better and better ... we're definitely on the right track and I think it's just a matter of time before the banks burst, and then we start playing the rugby that we're capable of.''

This was a great opportunity to take another step in the right direction against a team in good form who would bring a lot of physicality and intensity.

"They are a team that really back what they do,'' he said. "They are a really physically dominant forward pack and like to get on top of teams, and have Morne Steyn controlling the game well. He kicks very well, he kicks his goals, and puts the team in the right part of the field, and when they get down there they look pretty dynamic in attack.

"They've got a pretty good balance and they know who they are as a side, so we know what's coming.''

The losses have not changed Mauger's view on how the Crusaders should be playing _ to take the current cricket cliche, it's a case of staying calm and batting on.

"We've obviously got a plan of how we want to play and it's obviously not come to fruition the last couple of weeks. I think we were probably good enough last week to win the game, we scored four tries and let in a couple of soft ones. Other than that I thought we were in control of the game.''

The coaches have shown their confidence by naming the same 15 that lost by one point to the Hurricanes, and continuity especially under pressure was really important, he said.
They would be put under pressure tomorrow, but the fact they had some combinations going would help them deal with it - "the guys are connected, and the little mini-relationships are working well.''

After 14 knock-ons in Wellington they had talked about execution. "That's one thing that let us down. We had a try disallowed with just the little fingertip, and a couple of little knock-ons when we were in the scoring zone. We've just got to be a bit more ruthless when we have those opportunities to make sure we come away with points.''

Teams for the match at AMI Stadium tomorrow, kick-off 7.35pm: Crusaders - Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Johnny McNicholl, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Tom Donnelly, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Adam Whitelock.
Bulls - Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Jurgen Visser, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Willie Wepener, Morne Mellett. Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Jacques Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Louis Fouche, Jan Serfontein.

- Christchurch Star

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