Rugby: Crusaders seeking more success

The Crusaders qualified for the playoffs for the 12th-straight year after a 25-17 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch last night only. Photo/Getty Images.
The Crusaders qualified for the playoffs for the 12th-straight year after a 25-17 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch last night only. Photo/Getty Images.

The Crusaders have qualified for the playoffs for the 12th-straight year but that's not enough in a region hungry for a first title since 2008.

The franchise are the most successful in Super Rugby history, with seven titles. They've also been runners-up three times and made the playoffs in 15 of the 18 years of the competition.

It's patently obvious they will need to improve considerably on last night's effort if they are to come close to an eighth crown.

They stumbled their way to a 25-17 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch last night only a week after after crushing the Chiefs, who won the New Zealand conference even before last night's game against the Blues.

The Crusaders will now take on either the Reds or Cheetahs at home next weekend and coach Todd Blackadder acknowledged they will need to be better.

"If anything, this will be a really timely lesson that going forward we know that we can't mentally switch off at all,'' he said. "Even though it wasn't a great performance we still gutsed it out and still did what we needed to do to get the win.''

There is still enough quality in the Crusaders to win the competition and the joker they might yet still play is the return of Richie McCaw, who made his comeback for his Christchurch club yesterday amid huge interest.

Crusaders Assistant coach Dave Hewett said they planned to speak with McCaw after the game against University to assess his availability.

"But if he feels that he's not quite ready yet and may need another week of club footy or a step up from club footy without being the intensity of Super Rugby, then that could be an option as well,'' Hewett said. "Really, the decision rests with him.''

The Crusaders have one injury concern, with Tom Taylor suffering a head knock in a tackle by Hurricanes first five-eighths Beauden Barrett that left Taylor prone on the turf for a few minutes.

Blackadder said Taylor had recovered quickly but it was too early to tell if he would be available to play next weekend. Dan Carter could shift out to second five-eighths and Tyler Bleyendaal slot into the No 10 jersey if Taylor is ruled out.

-Additional reporting Newstalk ZB

- APNZ

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