Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders on a roll and high on confidence

Big Fijian Namani Nadolo adds new dimension to Canterbury's power attack

Israel Dagg says the Crusaders are tracking pretty well as their form keeps building. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Dagg says the Crusaders are tracking pretty well as their form keeps building. Photo / Getty Images

The Crusaders are on a roll, thanks to their large men up front and an even larger presence on the left wing in the form of Nemani Nadolo.

Both are factors in the Crusaders' resurgence, according to Israel Dagg, who himself is undergoing something of a renaissance after a difficult start to the season.

With their three victories on the road backed up with a resounding victory over Australian high-flyers the Brumbies, the Crusaders have travelled to Brisbane for tomorrow's match against the Reds high on confidence and expectation.

Lock Sam Whitelock, who has started every match for the Crusaders this season, has led the way with his workrate, and received able back-up in Christchurch last weekend from the returning Richie McCaw. The pack mentality has seen the Crusaders effectively play teams out of matches on the strength of their set piece, but the presence of 1.96m and 125kg giant Nadolo is a creating a different threat out wide.

The Fijian, signed from Japanese club NEC Green Rockets on a hunch by Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson, is creating and finishing tries on the flanks not seen at the Crusaders since the days of Afato So'oalo, Marika Vunibaka or Norm Berryman.

"He brings that X factor and obviously he stands out," Dagg said. "He has a lot of physical presence and has brought a whole new dimension to our game."

Nadolo, a 26-year-old brought up in Australia who has played in Europe, Japan, and now New Zealand, has indicated he wants to stick around at the Crusaders, telling Radio Live Sport yesterday he didn't want to be a "one-hit wonder".

That's good news for Todd Blackadder and Co as they look to storm home in the final part of an extremely even competition.

"As a group we're tracking pretty well," Dagg said. "We're clear about what we want to do out there. It's the work that the forwards are doing and Colin [Slade] as well.

"It was building," he said of his side's form. "We were a bit unlucky not to get the win against the Hurricanes and maybe even the Chiefs [in round one] but we're not getting too far ahead of ourselves."

He said it was "awesome to have Richie back. He's a hell of a man and brings a real presence and experience to the team".

Dagg said he was pleased with his form after being dropped earlier in the season. His long-range kicking and darts to the blindside put the boot into the Brumbies in a different way.

- NZ Herald

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