Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Guildford in frame as Crusaders consider juggling act

Zac Guildford sits with injured Crusaders players to watch their side face the Bulls. Photo / Getty Images
Zac Guildford sits with injured Crusaders players to watch their side face the Bulls. Photo / Getty Images

The Crusaders are back on track with a dominant display against the Bulls but now face a juggling act in selecting a team to play the Southern Kings in Christchurch this weekend.

Wing Zac Guildford, back in the fold after his alcohol issues, is in line to play and there could be a temptation to rest a few players for the Kings, the new kids on the block who have yet to play away from home.

Forwards such as Kieran Read, Wyatt Crockett, Sam Whitelock and Dominic Bird could be considered due for a spell with a tough tour of South Africa - matches against the Stormers and Sharks - to follow.

Yet all four were such dominant figures in their team's 41-19 victory that withdrawing them could be a recipe for disaster, a point conceded by forwards coach Dave Hewett.

"It is a balancing act,'' he said. "We have to make sure we're fresh but also make sure we respect the opposition.

The Kings have only won one game but their losses haven't been by much. Their defence is really good and they have some big men who run hard.

"If we take them lightly by making too many changes we could get a fright.''

Captain Kieran Read said after the six-try victory at AMI Stadium the Crusaders forwards were determined to take the fight to the Bulls, who typically are a pack-oriented team.

To that end they competed extremely well in the lineouts - in order to prevent the Bulls from starting their infamous rolling mauls. Hewett was satisfied with his men's work there, saying they made a mess of a couple of their throws, but stole or disrupted four the Bulls'.

The scrum, with Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks to the fore, was extremely solid.

"The guys were mentally switched on for the game. They delivered the same intensity that the Bulls showed against the Blues [a win for them at Eden Park].''

After opening away defeats to the Blues and Hurricanes, this performance was of a different class from the Crusaders, who showed plenty of enterprise in their backline to go with their forwards' grunt.

Tom Marshall, a fullback drafted on to one wing in the absence of Guildford, scored an individual try and later received the players' player of the day award.

With Guildford's impending return, it couldn't have come at a better time.

Hewett confirmed Guildford would be in the frame for Saturday night's match against the Kings.

He said Guildford was in excellent fitness but had to learn the Crusaders' set plays.

"It's not going to be an easy coast back in for him which is good because he wants a challenge as well.''

- APNZ

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