Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Mauger warns on early fancy stuff

Having skipper Kieran Read back from concussion is a timely boost. Photo / Getty Images
Having skipper Kieran Read back from concussion is a timely boost. Photo / Getty Images

After strangling the Lions with their strict adherence to a kick-first game plan, the Crusaders are keen to meet fire with fire against the free-running Cheetahs, but assistant coach Aaron Mauger has called for a balanced, rather than a reckless, attack.

"Obviously we've got to be pretty careful with the ball," he said. "These guys are pretty good from counter-attack and turnover play and they're probably one of the most dangerous sides in the competition so we certainly don't want to get too loose against them."

It was coach Todd Blackadder who said the Crusaders would run the ball against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday after he watched his side beat the Lions 28-7 at Ellis Park, a win which he thought would help his team turn a psychological corner. Some of his statements might have been for Cheetahs' ears, though.

Naka Drotske's team, unchanged from their dramatic draw with the Chiefs, do have one of the poorest defences in the competition, but they are very capable on attack.

It is more likely that the Crusaders will try to bash them into submission early before trying any of the fancy stuff in the backs.

Having skipper Kieran Read back from concussion is a timely boost given Luke Whitelock has gone home with a knee injury and his presence is likely to reinforce that hard-nosed approach.

"He's obviously a great leader," Mauger said. "He's a physical man and it's going to be a physical challenge."

Andy Ellis gives way to Willi Heinz as starting halfback due to his high recent workload and prop Nepo Laulala starts ahead of Owen Franks. Corey Flynn replaces Ben Funnell in the No 2 jersey.

The mood in the camp was lightened significantly by the recent victory in Johannesburg, Mauger said. With the Hurricanes and Blues having a bye this weekend, a victory by the Crusaders will shoot them up the New Zealand conference table.

"It's probably the first time after a game this season that we've been really satisfied. There were genuine, big smiles on faces which was great. As a coach it's rewarding to see a team play to a game plan like that."

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