Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Coach Robbie Deans is shrugging off references to the Crusaders' "soft" tackling efforts against the Brumbies ahead of a crucial Super 14 rugby match against the in-form Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday night.
Chiefs captain Jono Gibbes may have provided perfect motivation for the opposition when he referred in a television interview last night to the Crusaders' "soft" attempts to quell the Brumbies in the tryless 15-6 loss in Canberra last Saturday.
Deans today said he had not heard Gibbes' jibe, but conceded it was probably fair comment.
"I guess we did lose the collision area last weekend."
Deans said his players were aware the lack of intensity they displayed against a Brumbies side who have clawed their way back into playoffs contention.
"They weren't happy with their work around the contact last week, and that was a contributing factor to our demise."
Deans said Gibbes comment had not been discussed at training today.
"We look at what we do and just try and make the most of the opportunities we have. The game's not a war of words."
The return of All Blacks lock Chris Jack from an enforced sideline spell with a torn hamstring tendon and loss of injured All Blacks five-eighth Daniel Carter feature in four changes to the side who succumbed to the Brumbies.
Carter is out with a shoulder injury sustained in Canberra and is replaced by understudy Stephen Brett. Winger Rico Gear is back at Caleb Ralph's expense, and halfback Andrew Ellis replaces Kevin Senio, who has a thigh injury.
Jack, who returns to the starting 15 after almost five weeks on the sideline recovering from an injury he received in his second Super 14 game after the All Blacks' reconditioning program, said he was feeling good and keen to play.
"It (hamstring) is not back to normal, but it's at a level where I feel comfortable playing," Jack said.
Crusaders doctor Tony Ellis said Jack was "pretty close to 100 percent" after rehabilitation on the tendon he tore against the Waratahs in Sydney on March 31.
He said Carter was suffering a "stinger" - a compression or stretch of nerves in his neck.
"We're pretty confident it will be better, probably for next week."
Jack attributed the added fitness gained during the All Blacks' conditioning program for his rapid recovery from injury.
Tasman halfback Kahn Fotuali'i takes Senio's place, with Rua Tipoki coming on to the bench after missing last weekend's trip to Canberra.
Lock Michael Paterson is the fifth forward substitute, making room for Jack's return.
The Crusaders are at the top of the table on 41 points and have a healthy plus-153 points differential, leaving them well placed to make the semifinals and secure home advantage for the playoffs.
The Chiefs, who head south with aspirations of making the semifinals and flushed with confidence after four consecutive wins but have not beaten the Crusaders since 1998.
Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Rico Gear, Casey Laulala, Aaron Mauger, Scott Hamilton, Stephen Brett, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali'i, Richard McCaw (captain), Reuben Thorne, Chris Jack, Ross Filipo, Campbell Johnstone, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks. Res: Ti'i Paulo, Ben May, Michael Paterson, Kieran Read, Kahn Fotuail'i, Rua Tipoki, Johnny Leo'o.
Chiefs: Mils Muliaina, Roy Kinikinilau, Dwayne Sweeney, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Sione Lauaki, Marty Holah, Liam Messam, Keith Robinson, Jono Gibbes (captain), Nathan White, Tom Willis, Simms Davison. Reserves: Aled de Malmanche, Ben Castle, Kristian Ormsby, Steven Bates, Byron Kelleher, Murray Williams, Lelia Masaga.