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July 13, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Sports | [ssba]

Time to Give the Crusaders Some Credit

They’re the most successful franchise in Super Rugby history. Maybe that’s why not many people outside of the Canterbury region like them. But love them or hate them, you have to hand it to the Crusaders – they’re damn good.

This weekend, Todd Blackadder’s men will enter a record 13th-straight playoffs. This is more than any other side, and thus, perhaps unlike others, the Crusaders will enter the playoffs as one of the favourites to take out the Super Rugby title.

There are a couple of reasons that need to be touched on here. The first is the attacking flair that has been thrust back into their backline, which was lacking any real threat at the start of the season. Perhaps this should be put down to a guy by the name of Nemani Nadolo. The massive Fijian flyer out on the left wing has been instrumental in the reigniting of this Crusaders backline. Every time he gets the ball in his hands, he breaks the line and looks to score. He’s a massive threat who has given opposition defences nothing but nightmares throughout the Super Rugby season. As a result of the threat of Nadolo, the Crusaders are now playing with greater width, opening up space for Nadolo. Look for Nadolo to threaten even more as the Crusaders seek their eighth Super Rugby title.

But it’s not just the flair of the outside backs that is helping the Crusaders continue their surge; up front, the job continues to be done. Within the tight five, the workhorse that is Sam Whitelock continues to be one of the Crusaders key members. Described by coach Todd Blackadder as: “The backbone of the forward pack. You won’t find a harder worker. He drives our lineout and leads on defence. Consistency is the key to his game.” At lineout time, he’s crucial. Often disrupting opposition throws, and securing their own. He poses a constant threat at the breakdown; he’s quick at getting over the ball and always gives his team a chance to contest. If he continues to play as well as he has been all year, he certainly puts his team in a position to win.

You have to say, the Crusaders deserve to take this one. They’ve been the most consistent side over the last 13 years, never missing the playoffs and they certainly look determined to claim their first title since 2008. Personally, I think you’d be an idiot to look past them. Oh, also, they now have Dan Carter back in their side – good luck, opposition sides.


Top 5 All Black One-Hit Wonders

5. Lelia Masaga – A classic case of ‘played well at Super Rugby level’, but never gave us anything worth talking about at international level. Never really had what it took, but at least he tried. For one game. Against Italy. And still produced nothing.

4. Anthony Tuitavake – Now unlike some, this guy probably deserved his All Black call-up, but in 2008, he did little to warrant earning more than six caps. He notched up one try in those six tests, but did nothing to warrant staying there. Probably worth giving him a go, but he’s better off plying his trade in Japan.

3. Isaac Ross – So much hype, so much speculation and so much disappointment. Isaac Ross was thrown into the All Blacks, with many expecting massive things. While he certainly wasn’t the worst player to ever wear the black jersey, he didn’t give the coaches any reason to keep him there.

2. Jarrad Hoeata – Much like Ross, Hoeata was tipped to be a great All Black, but never delivered. Poor discipline and poor skills saw him never recalled. He’s still chipping away with the Highlanders, but maybe it’s time to chase some money overseas.

1. Jamie Mackintosh – Possibly selected because he’d been hanging around so long, Mackintosh played as many All Black tests as he deserved based on form. A solid ITM Cup player, international rugby was just never for Jamie.


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