Monday, March 29, 2010

Coach Todd Blackadder wary of Hurricanes

Maybe the memories of last year's defeat are still raw for Todd Blackadder.
Even with the Hurricanes suffering their fourth consecutive defeat with a last-gasp 29-26 loss to the Sharks in Wellington on Saturday night, Crusaders coach Blackadder still remains cautious about his side getting their lights dimmed at the Cake Tin on Good Friday.

"They are the sort of team that can be really dangerous when they are desperate. They have had a tough few weeks and always take it to the Crusaders."

Last season, the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders 30-24 in their third-round encounter in Christchurch, but both teams' fortunes have changed this year.
Unlike the Crusaders, who have won five of their six matches and, following a truncated three-day training week, had the weekend off on account of a bye, the Hurricanes suffered the anguish of watching Sharks halfback Ruan Pienaar kick a match-winning long-range penalty after the final hooter.

Now the 'Canes last memory of supping on a celebratory beer was when they beat competition bunnies the Lions on February 27. Before the Sharks' loss, they suffered defeats to the Cheetahs, Stormers and Bulls in South Africa.

Even taking into account the Sharks' keen defence and aggression at the breakdowns, the Hurricanes would be bitterly disappointed with their sloppy effort, which was riddled with wonky passes and handling errors.

All Blacks Ma'a Nonu, Tamati Ellison and Cory Jane were among those guilty of making mistakes to ruin promising attacks. The shaky lineout also contributed to their attackbeing stunted and coach Colin Cooper must have been gnawing his fist with fury as he watched his soldiers give away crucial penalties at the death.
And Blackadder has some news for those folk north of Cook Strait who hope the enforced rest will have dulled the Crusaders' edge.

"It depends on how you deal with the bye – and I think we will be far better for it. We will come out of this a lot fresher after the break."

Lock Brad Thorn, who was rested from the 46-19 win over the Lions on March 20, has been given time to recover from a sternum injury and halfback Andy Ellis has fully recovered from the head knock suffered against the Blues on March 6.

Only hooker Corey Flynn, who will be out for four weeks because of a hairline fracture in his ankle, will not be considered.

Blackadder is certain to make changes to the starting side that met the Lions, with Kieran Read expected to return to No8 and Thorn to lock.
Wyatt Crockett is likely to return to loosehead prop and, if George Whitelock replaces Jonathan Poff at openside flanker, Richie McCaw will again wear the No6 jersey.

Just who will partner Thorn in the second row is uncertain, although rookie Sam Whitelock, whose work rate has been top-notch, might get the nod ahead of All Black Isaac Ross and Chris Jack, who played 34 minutes in his comeback from injury against the Lions.


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