Monday, May 24, 2010

Crusaders laugh off illegal scrummaging claims‏

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has laughed off Bulls suggestions they are illegal scrummagers ahead of Sunday morning's (NZ time) Super 14 semifinal.
The Bulls assertion, delivered by veteran skipper Victor Matfield, was rubbished tonight (NZ time) by Blackadder ahead of his side's captain's run in Soweto.

The Crusaders coach refuted Matfield's suggestions that they use illegal tactics on their loosehead side of the scrum. The Bulls skipper added that they would be asking referee Stu Dickinson to be especially vigilant in this area of the game.

"They're a great scrummaging unit, but we've observed that they target the tighthead side of the scrum through illegal means,' Matfield told South African website
"We'll ask the referee to watch out for that. It's a small thing but could make a big difference in a semifinal. I'm sure Richie [McCaw - Crusaders captain] will raise some points of concern. It's not a witch hunt, we just want to make sure the playing fields are level."

Blackadder laughed off suggestions his side scrummed illegally, countering with the claim that the set piece was the strongest part of the Crusaders game.

"That's an interesting one, isn't it," said Blackadder. "We've got a great scrum, and used it as a weapon all year. I refute those claims. We don't need to cheat.
"If there were any issues with the scrum, there are Sanzar protocols in place, they would get hold of [refs co-ordinator] Lyndon Bray and then he goes through the local scrum coaches and there's some critiquing and adjustments.
"But we've heard nothing. We don't have any concerns to be honest."

Blackadder said he would be meeting with Dickinson later before the semifinal, but would not be raising anything concerning the Bulls game.
"We'll have a quiet coffee, and we'll talk about what his expectations are. That's the most important thing for us to worry about."

But the coach did concede that the decision to go with the Franks brothers as props for a second straight week, and leave Wyatt Crockett on the bench, had been a concession to the previous meeting between the two sides.
A fortnight ago Crockett had been so heavily penalised by referee Marius Jonker that he had to be replaced at halftime.

"We have been rotating them, but this week we just thought we'd take any grey area out of the equation," he said. "That's unfortunate for Crocky but they've all been performing and they're all relatively fresh."

Blackadder also felt his team had made "massive strides" at lineout time and could match the renowned Bulls' set piece.

He added that the Crusaders had been somewhat removed from the game's hype by staying in Johannesburg, but confirmed there was plenty of excitement within the team at having made it this far.

And he was confident that the younger members of the squad, most of whom make up the backline, would handle the big occasion well.

"They're really enjoying it, especially the last 3-4 weeks when the backs have really clicked ... They're young, and they're really excited about taking this opportunity. They haven't shown any nerves whatsoever."

In terms of tactics, Blackadder hinted at some minor tweaks from the Crusaders after they'd rattled the Bulls with a fast-paced game played with plenty of width a fortnight ago.
The Bulls have said they expect a tighter approach from the seven-time champions given the high stakes.

"We're not going to change too much," he said. "We believe we've got a game that can adapt on the day. If anything we've opened up the last 3-4 weeks and played with a lot more width.
"We believe we've got a really good game plan. I won't say too much more than that, but we won't stray too far from what we've been doing."

Blackadder said there were no injury issues heading into the match, with Dan Carter and Ben Franks both over their ankle tweaks from the weekend.
And he said his players had quickly settled back into the South African time zone they had only left a week earlier..

"We've had a really good week. We're mentally fresh and physically fresh – I've never been around a team at this time of the year so fresh and determined to do well."

And certainly there's a feeling in the Crusaders camp that they owe the Bulls one after dropping their last two semifinals to them in Pretoria.

"There is a feeling that they have had the wood on us ... last year was a different side, a young side that almost limped into the semis. We come here with real confidence - a couple of weeks ago we took a lot out of that game.
"There's certainly no fear, but we'd really like to turn those results around."

The first of the South African semifinal double kicks off at Soweto's Orlando Stadium at 3am Sunday (NZ time).

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