Give the Super 14 title to the Crusaders … now. Let’s not prolong the agony unless some rival makes a decent challenge.
The Hurricanes offer that hope on Friday, and let’s assume they bring some wallop to their work after the porous efforts of others this season. The Waratahs were the latest casualties when they were naive enough to believe a defensive wall backed by a kick-and-hope routine would unhinge the Crusaders.
Wynne Gray writes in the NZ Herald that the invaders were ahead, for three minutes, before the Crusaders ramped up their game and waltzed away with a bonus-point victory. It reminded you of the household cat toying with some poor insect which had crossed its path, going through its trap-and-release schedule to amuse itself.
Only the Force have asked consistently tough questions of the Crusaders ahead of the competition’s mid-point.
If we gave the trophy to the Crusaders now it would bypass the intrusive concept being floated by the All Black selectors that they will reveal their first squad before the Super 14 final on May 31.
Their argument, based on the solid assumption of a New Zealand presence in that showdown, is that new players and the team will need more than just the week to prepare between the final and the June 7 first test against Ireland.
In a letter to contracted players and key sponsors, the NZRU has apparently espoused the idea of a May 26 squad-naming for the All Blacks, although chief executive Steve Tew told the Herald on Sunday no firm decision had been reached.
“The All Black coaches are still discussing a number of issues with the players, franchise coaches and a number of other people. There are a number of challenges that we face, and it is certainly not an easy decision to make.”
Whenever a New Zealand side has been in a Super rugby final, it seems the All Blacks take the gloss away from that occasion by naming their first test squad straight away.
And after they removed the Cotton Wool Club for half the series last year, it would be prudent for them to have no interference this season until the Super 14 has finished.
Imagine the effect of naming an early All Black squad without some players in the Super 14 final who might have expected to be strong contenders for national selection. Others who might be first-time or returning All Blacks would also have their Super 14 final preparations disturbed.
Conspiracy theorists will identify this plan as an attempt to derail the Crusaders and upset Robbie Deans’ last hurrah before he leaves for his Wallaby appointment.
A week is not a long time for the All Blacks to prepare for their first test, but 80 per cent of the squad will know they are in line for selection. NZRU administrators have long agreed to this congested schedule in an unwieldy 15-test season.Tweet