Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crusaders wary of the volatile Hurricanes RICHARD KNOWLER 17/04/2012

Ten months ago the Crusaders' eyes were bulging as they, along with the rest of New Zealand, watched the Hurricanes flopping about in their final death throes.
In-house squabbling, public discontent and half-baked rumours were all part of the wild Hurricanes story of 2011 that ended in coach Mark Hammett axing All Blacks Andrew Hore and Ma'a Nonu and losing Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Hosea Gear to other franchises.
The Crusaders beat the Canes 16-9 in their final regular season match at the Cake Tin on June 18 before embarking on their finals campaign while the Hurricanes made a beeline for the bar to obliterate any memories of a undistinguished season.
The contrast in the preparations for Saturday night's rematch in Wellington couldn't be more stark. Instead of discussing the Hurricanes' off-field shenanigans, the wary Crusaders are devising ways to defuse their opponents' respected counter-attack weapons Andre Taylor, Cory Jane and Julian Savea.
Having played and coached alongside Hammett for the best part of a decade Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will know how his old mate ticks when it comes to formulating battle plans. He reckons if the Crusaders are to win it is imperative they tighten their kicking game and treasure ball in contact.
"We will expect them to counter-attack ... they have been playing like that all season," Blackadder said. "We just have to make sure we really connect defensively so they cannot break us."
Although the Crusaders are still expected to structure their attack around a kicking game comprising Tom Taylor, Dan Carter and Israel Dagg they acknowledge they need to be more accurate than when they beat the Stormers 31-24 last weekend.
When the Canes trounced the Sharks 42-18 in New Plymouth before their bye they embarrassed the tourists by swiftly flicking turnover ball wide or searching for tired forwards to expose in a ragged defensive screen.
"The Sharks were so dominant, they had all the field position and made a couple of silly little errors, got counter-attacked and were scored against."
It is a fair bet a large chunk of the defensive training drills at Rugby Park this week will be set around the Crusaders holding their line when following up kicks and watching out for runners searing in from unexpected angles.

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