By RICHARD KNOWLER, The Press
Saturday, 24 May 2008
There are few things the Crusaders coaches hate more than watching their men give away penalties.
Head coach Robbie Deans has a target of six per match, a threshold he does not want exceeded when the Crusaders face the Hurricanes in tonight's Super 14 semi-final at AMI Stadium.
Penalties could be the difference between advancing to next week's final or wondering what could have been.
Last week they were pinged 10 times in their 14-26 defeat to the Highlanders, three against lock Ali Williams. Deans has promised his charges will not be so ill-disciplined in the semi.
"That was an aberration and you won't see it this week," Deans said."It was possibly indicative of the mentality, I guess. Ill-discipline tends to come when you are looking for short cuts and you are not fully committed and prepared to do what is required."
Williams raised the ire of referee Keith Brown for not entering contact points through the gate, rulings that raised the lock's hackles.
"Yes, I was p...ed off at the weekend. I just get frustrated, they say one thing and do another thing," Williams said."One week it's acceptable and the next week it's not acceptable. I will get a big fine here for what I say, so I will have to watch it. I just get frustrated and I just have to channel that."
Williams' move south, which followed his dust-up with the Blues last year, has paid dividends for the Crusaders. His form has been sound and he will again be named in the All Blacks squad after the Super 14 final.
From the outside there have been no signs of the 27-year-old creating waves in the Crusaders, although Deans would have been less than pleased with the way he challenged Brown and risked being yellow carded.
For his part, Williams says he is aware of how much he can push officials before being punished and says there has been little need for his team-mates to remind him.
"My good mates know. `Ricko' (Richie McCaw) knows me. He doesn't even say to me anything now, he just sort of looks at me. But I think it's good once in a while - because if I didn't care I wouldn't show that emotion."
The result of tonight's contest could hinge on the tackled ball contest, an area where the Crusaders were strangely passive against the Highlanders, and the defensive lines will be unforgiving from both sides.
When the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 20-13 in Wellington in their round-robin match, Jerry Collins was fortunate to escape censure when he felled Kieran Read with a high tackle.
Williams is prepared for more of that aggression, noting the Hurricanes have fingered it as a integral part of their battle plan.
"That's a strength in their games, as a pack they are a bunch of wolves really. They come out and try and get into you. If you were them, why would you neglect a strength? For us, it's about not getting intimidated and trying to get back at them in that same regard."
A loss tonight, and it could be his final appearance in the Crusaders jersey.
With David Nucifora leaving the Blues to join the Australian Rugby Union as its high performance manager and Auckland coach Pat Lam favoured to take over his spot, Williams will be sorely tempted to move back to his home city.
For his part, however, he remains cagey on such prospects.
I don't want to point at a particular ref but I agree with Ali ("One week it's acceptable and the next week it's not acceptable"). Having -at last- seen the sin bin of Richie vs. the Highlanders, my first thought was : refs too make mistakes coz they too are human beings!
My second was : did he at least reckon he penalized the wrong player? ... unsure!
People in charge of discipline, you have one year to think about your new rules and why not adding the video (like in France) to "not-try-zones"?