Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has resisted rotating his props for the first time since April 17 in making no changes for Sunday morning’s Super 14 semifinal against the Bulls in Soweto.
Richard Knowler writes for Rugby Heaven NZ that Wyatt Crockett has been omitted, with Ben Franks again starting at loosehead prop and younger brother Owen keeping his position at tighthead after the Crusaders scrum dominated the Brumbies at AMI Stadium last weekend.
Blackadder last night admitted it was a difficult decision to leave Crockett out, although he may make an appearance in the second half.
When the Crusaders faced the Bulls a fortnight ago Crockett was replaced at halftime, having been caned by referee Marius Jonker for collapsing the scrum despite the loosehead accusing his opponent, Werner Kruger, of being at fault.
By keeping the same side that beat the Brumbies 40-22, Blackadder has rewarded those men that qualified the Crusaders for the playoffs for the eighth consecutive time.
Lock Sam Whitelock has benefited from Blackadder’s loyalty, earning another run ahead of former All Black Chris Jack following an impressive 80 minutes last week in which he clocked up 17 tackles.
“We just feel Chris has not been as sharp as we would have liked him to be recently and Sam Whitelock really did the job when he put in a top performance last week,” Blackadder said.
The onus will again be on the backline to reproduce their sizzling form of previous weeks, although it is uncertain whether they will again be given licence to counter-attack from the deep and with width as they did when they previously faced the Bulls.
Although he will be wary of reproducing the same game-plan against the defending champions, Blackadder will be cautious about reducing the flow of ball to his back division that has performed so well over the last fortnight.
“In a way it is probably getting back to how Crusaders teams in the past have played – ball in hand, very good off turnover ball, short passing and playing with width,” backs coach Daryl Gibson said.
Left wing Zac Guildford produced one of his best performances of the year against the Brumbies and Gibson said the side was benefiting from having a strong finisher such as the former Hurricane and Sean Maitland out wide.
“The difference from last season is that we have got wingers that are very threatening and can finish. That was something we lacked last season, just that firepower out wide.”
Meanwhile, the Bulls have lost Springboks lock Bakkies Botha after he was suspended for four weeks for a reckless cleanout of Stormers wing Gio Aplon in a ruck last weekend.
Botha has been replaced by Danie Rossouw who will again link up with captain Victor Matfield in the second row.
Canterbury Rugby yesterday announced Australian company KooGa as its new apparel provider. It will provide the official playing, training, casual and supporter gear to the CRFU’s A, B, Colts, Academy, Maori, women’s, sevens and all technical medical teams.
CRUSADERS: Colin Slade, Sean Maitland, Robert Fruean, Daniel Bowden, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Ti’i Paulo, Ben Franks. Reserves: Daniel Perrin, Wyatt Crockett, Chris Jack, Thomas Waldrom, Kahn Fotuali’i, Tim Bateman, Jared Payne.Tweet