Campbell Burnes: Blackadder - bench key on high veldt

By Campbell Burnes

Todd Blackadder and Aaron Mauger enjoying the day at Eke. Photo / Darren Taumata
Todd Blackadder and Aaron Mauger enjoying the day at Eke. Photo / Darren Taumata

The Crusaders know they did not respond to the Hurricanes' pressure last weekend and they also know they can't leave anything out on Ellis Park tomorrow morning.

After the sapping travel to South Africa they have focused on recovery, stretching and clarity meetings to prepare for their quarter-final. Todd Blackadder has named his strongest line-up possible, including 10 All Blacks and two potential All Blacks.

The question will be how much the 179 tackles against the Hurricanes will hurt when the lungs are burning on the high veldt and the legs are feeling heavy. That's where the Crusaders' bench will come into play.

"I think it's going to take 23 for this one. It's going to be critical to our success this weekend, being clinical and clear on detail and executing under pressure," says coach Todd Blackadder.

It is not, however, the most imposing bench the Crusaders have ever fielded, though Jimmy Tupou can be counted on to add lineout accuracy and Luke Romano has swapped with Scott Barrett to add experience.

Blackadder has said Andy Ellis will not be risked if his calf is not 100 per cent, so Mitch Drummond will be primed and Leon Fukofuka is on standby.

Crusaders fans have seen a Jekyll and Hyde team in the past three games: listless against the Chiefs in Suva, rampant against the tackle-shy Melbourne Rebels, and overrun in the final quarter by the Hurricanes.

Blackadder is not thinking about recent form. "We haven't dwelled too much on it. If anything, it was a bloody good wake-up call. I don't think last week has hurt the confidence of the team. If anything, it has galvanised them."

Things got frisky in the last clash between these two franchises, which the Crusaders took 43-27 at the same venue on April 2.

Centre Ryan Crotty, who scored a hat-trick in that outing, says the team knows what to expect.

"They might tighten up their defence from the first game. They score a lot of points, but turn over a lot of ball as well."

The Lions' inspirational skipper Warren Whiteley has been named after recovering from a shoulder injury, and will bring his all-energy game to what looms as a torrid loose battle against a Crusaders' trio bolstered by Jordan Taufua.

Former Crusader Dan Carter is picking his old team to emerge victorious, but the three-time Super Rugby winner says it won't be easy.

- NZ Herald

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