Patrick McKendry 's Opinion

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Emotional state could favour Crusaders

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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

If we accept that the Crusaders and Waratahs share the same resolve to win tonight, then the difference between the best two sides in the competition could rest on their respective emotional states and there Todd Blackadder's men could have an edge.

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Minutes after his side thrashed the Sharks in their Christchurch semifinal last weekend, Blackadder talked about the lessons learned from their failure to win the 2011 final against the Reds in Brisbane. One of their problems, apart from their inability to snuff out the attacking genius of halfback Will Genia, was their emotional state heading into the Suncorp Stadium showcase.

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In short, they got a bit carried away - not surprising given their already high emotional levels caused by the ongoing Christchurch earthquakes.

This week the Crusaders have been business-like, the fact they are away from possible distractions in Christchurch probably a good thing. Sydney is a big city, a rugby final in this metropolis doesn't carry the weight of a league showdown, for example.

Certainly, there was no sign of the Crusaders getting carried away in the wake of their demolition of the Sharks, despite the fact it was one of their best performances ever under Blackadder. There was no yahooing in the changing room; only a loud but fairly restrained rendition of Happy Birthday for persons unknown.

The same can't be said of the Waratahs, who, unlike the Crusaders, are not used to being in the competition at this time of year. They last featured in a final in 2008. They lost to the Crusaders.

Their coach, Michael Cheika, who has a hot temper, showed signs of pressure this week, when, according to a newspaper report, let rip at a photographer at training. "What if I come to your work and start f ... king photographing you?" Cheika shouted at a photographer behind the goal posts who had the temerity to show interest in the Waratahs' lineout drills.

Cheika, already on thin ice after incurring a suspended six-month ban by Sanzar for abusing a cameraman during the Waratahs' loss to the Sharks in Durban, later had a more restrained crack at another photographer.

The incidents happened before a team huddle on the training field in which veteran midfielder Adam Ashley-Cooper read out a poem containing references to all 30 players in the Waratahs' squad, an emotional recital which apparently drew applause and sent shivers down the spin of prop Sekope Kepu.

"I think when someone goes to that length and includes 30-odd blokes in a poem touching a little bit on his experience with them or where they've come from and all that kind of stuff is pretty special," Kepu said later.

Who knows, it might help do the trick for the Waratahs, but it's hard to see Richie McCaw, Kieran Read or Dan Carter doing anything like that.

For them and the rest of the Crusaders, the motivational stuff will come from within.

For them there is simply a steely resolve to finish the job.

- APNZ

Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

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