Richie McCaw was the action hero everyone wanted to see, but the All Blacks captain ultimately played a supporting role to the Crusaders' equivalent of B.A Baracus - the "A Team" enforcer made famous by Mr T.
Sporting a mohawk to pay homage to a cult figure of the 1980s television series, Robbie Fruean created plenty of havoc among the Waratahs depleted backline yesterday as the Crusaders racked up their 10th successive win against the Sydney-based franchise.
Fruean scored two tries and set up the Crusaders second for Zac Guildford as the seven-time champions banked the maximum five points available with a 37-33 round 10 victory at Allianz Stadium that also heralded the return of McCaw from a long-term foot injury.
The Crusaders centre preyed on an opponent weakened by the loss of fullback Bernard Foley to injury and the suspension of Rob Horne.
The Wallabies midfielder is regarded as one of the Waratahs more reliable tacklers so was sorely missed as Fruean atoned for a defensive lapse that facilitated the opening try to wing Atieli Pakalani on his season debut.
Fruean cancelled out that score with an angled run in the 17th minute while a burst down the left flank and slick offload to Guildford enabled the Crusaders to lead at the break.
Often criticised for fading in and out of games, Fruean remained a danger throughout and nailed the bonus-point try in the 55th minute when he eluded Tom Carter with little room to work with inside the touchline.
It was Fruean's sixth try of the season to leave him just one behind Chiefs prop Sona Taumololo and Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor, the joint competition leaders.
Fruean scored the individual try of the previous round against the Hurricanes when he raced 50-metres after rising to collect a punt and he was again all powerful with ball in hand.
"In the last couple of weeks his impact has been huge and he's lifted his game," enthused Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.
Fruean, who also scored a double the last time the teams met in Nelson soon after the Christchurch earthquake, has been the major beneficiary of a smoother functioning backline that has provided eight of the Crusaders nine tries in their last two outings.
"We're definitely going better," said Fruean after the Crusaders third consecutive win enabled them to maintain sixth position.
"We've been really working hard together in training and making sure we're running the support lines and giving each other options."
It was comfortably Fruean's best performance of the season and one he jokingly attributed his hairstyle.
"During the off-season I lost too much weight. I needed something to make me a little bit more intimidating so I went with the Mr T," he explained.
"My Dad first gave me a mohawk when I was 16 and I decided to bring it back."
The 108kg Fruean, who trimmed down a couple of kilograms to enhance his explosiveness, downplayed his contribution saying he was just capitalising on great set piece work from the Crusaders pack.
"The forwards are getting us good quality ball and I have to make sure I'm ready to take any opportunities that come my way."
McCaw made his grand entrance to sporting applause moments after Fruean's second and although guilty of conceding three points when penalised for being offside at a breakdown the inspirational flanker was otherwise solid during his 24 minute cameo.
He described his performance as adequate after he replaced blindside George Whitelock for his first game time since last October's World Cup final at Eden Park.
"I didn't do too much wrong. I gave away a penalty - that was about it. I felt like I got into the game alright," he said.
McCaw had been sidelined for six months and was happy to report he experienced no discomfort during or after the match.
He was also pleasantly surprised by his fitness levels though there is no guarantee he will return to the starting line-up for Sunday's clash with reigning champions Queensland in Christchurch.
Blackadder was noncommittal when asked if McCaw might start either at openside or in tandem with Matt Todd but the man himself indicated he was eager to run on.
"I'd give it a go but whether that happens or not, I don't know," he said.