It's a bit like getting a Holden as a loan car while the Roller is in the workshop getting serviced. Quite nice, but not the same. That's probably a little unfair on Matt Todd who will deputise for the injured Richie McCaw over the next three weeks. Todd has consistently been one of Blackadder's most effective soldiers this year.
2014 feels like a transitional season for the Crusaders. George Whitelock has confirmed a move to Japan. Given how clipped his answers are during interviews, it may turn out that Japanese is in fact his preferred language. Whitelock has been magnificent in red and black jerseys- especially for the Canterbury team having captained them to five of their last six consecutive ITM Cup titles. But, Jordan Taufua has been the big improver and mover in 2014, and the old diesel turbo that is George has found himself as something of a spare part.
The Rolling Stones song "Time Is On My Side" doesn't really apply to Richie McCaw or Dan Carter at this point in their careers. Perhaps another Stone's classic, "Time Waits For No One", is more appropriate for this pair. Just when McCaw was getting some traction and form, he's back on the sidelines with a broken rib. Given that the All Blacks are probably the best resourced team in world rugby, it's hard to work out how they didn't pick up the injury. Perhaps it speaks volumes for the work of former All Blacks and now Crusaders doc- Deb Robinson, who is one of the most knowledgeable and fascinating personalities in New Zealand sport.
It's baby steps for Dan Carter in his return from sabbatical and Kieran Read will remain under microscope in the week's ahead as his concussion issues are monitored.
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Read and McCaw have barely appeared together at any level this season- a point not lost on the coach. If coach Blackadder is a nervous man, he's hiding it well heading into Saturday night's clash with the Hurricanes. "The youngsters have stepped up just fine".
Given the rollercoaster nature of their campaign, it's fair to say that a great many Crusaders fans are are scratching their heads wondering how their side made it to the top of the conference. Perhaps more concerning for Blackadder is the second row, and the finishing power out wide. Sam Whitelock has been colossal, but he hasn't had a break. Even a Whitelock engine needs a rest from time to time.
Human wrecking ball Nemani Nadolo is away with Fiji in a World Cup qualifier against the Cook Islands. Until his arrival, the Crusaders were fairly ineffective out wide and the performances out there were inconsistent, both on attack and going backwards. No doubt Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett will be looking back over his notes from his side's March 28 victory at AMI Stadium.