Eye on the Crusaders

Over the past two seasons, the Crusaders' form has risen and fallen depending on Kieran Read's fitness. Photo / Getty Images
Over the past two seasons, the Crusaders' form has risen and fallen depending on Kieran Read's fitness. Photo / Getty Images

Our team of rugby writers countdown to the New Zealand franchises' entry into Super rugby, beginning on Friday night with a mouth-watering clash between the defending champion Chiefs and the competition's most successful side, the Crusaders.

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Today the focus is squarely on the Crusaders.

Monday: Highlanders

Blackadder's change of tack
As a coach, Todd Blackadder is prone to all manner of sayings, and one of his standard lines is the one about the definition of insanity being the inclination to do the same thing over and over again, all the while expecting a different result.

After five years of slow starts despite a glittering array of talent at his disposal, the Crusaders coach has decided the madness has to stop, writes Patrick McKendry.

Blackadder's boys a chance for another shot at win
It was a long time ago. The financial crisis had just hit, Michael Jackson was talking about touring with his brothers again, and China was about to host the Olympics. Robbie Deans still spoke in Kiwi lingo - the nickname Dingo was yet to come. The year 2008, under the stewardship of Deans, was the last time the Crusaders saw the trophy, writes Brian Ashby.

Wynne Gray's take: Crusaders need fast, strong start
Five seasons and counting. Recollections of the Crusaders' supremacy are fading as they continue to go through their close-but-no-cigar routine.

The Crusaders' sword has not been removed from its scabbard for its ceremonial victory plunge into the turf since Robbie Deans' crew beat the Waratahs in 2008.

Finished last year: 4th [2nd in NZ Conference]
Won: 12
Lost: 6
Coach: Todd Blackadder
Captain: Kieran Read
Home ground: AMI Stadium,
Addington
Capacity: 17,300
Players in: Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury), Reynold Lee-Lo (Hurricanes), Nemani Nadolo (NEC Green Rockets), Tim Perry (Blues), Colin Slade (Highlanders)
Players out: Shane Christie (Highlanders), Tom Donnelly (Blues), Robbie Fruean (Chiefs), Tom Marshall (Chiefs), Jeremy Su'a (Worcester Warriors), Telusa Veainu (Rebels)

Ones to watch

New man: Nemani Nadolo
At 1.96m and 125kg, Nadolo is a big man. The fact he plays on the wing is likely to spice things up a bit for the Crusaders, who have been lacking a player who can create something out of nothing, an in-form Israel Dagg apart. Playing for the NEC Green Rockets in Japan, Nadolo won't be available for the start of the season but, fitness permitting, has the potential to create a stir when he does. The 26-year-old is extremely quick too. Midfielder Reynold Lee-Lo, who has joined from the Hurricanes, could also make an impact.

Star man: Kieran Read
The best player in the world, according to the International Rugby Board's award panel, Read is the Crusaders' most important player. Over the past two seasons, the Crusaders' form has risen and fallen depending on Read's fitness. He is a hard-charging ball runner who has the ability to slip clever passes to his quick men and he is a defensive workhorse. He is also an inspirational leader and it's significant that coach Todd Blackadder has elected to continue with Read as captain despite the presence of All Black captain Richie McCaw.

Stats from 2013
2.7 average tries per game
9.4 lineouts won per game
2.7 average lineout steals per game*
17.2 average missed tackles per game
27.9 average number of points per game
13.1 average turnovers conceded#
17.3 average number of defenders beaten
178.2 average passes per game

# lowest in the competition
* highest in the competition

- NZ Herald

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